Saturday, June 20, 2009

Immigration Advocates To Meet with Obama as Reform Seems to Recede

At Friday's Hispanic prayer breakfast President Barack Obama re-pledged himself to comprehensive immigration reform that provides "a pathway to citizenship" for the 12 million undocumented in the country. He also said he would meet with congressional leaders and immigration advocates at the White House next Thursday, but hope for action seems to be receding. The president's plate is already full with health care reform and climate control legislation tying up Congress through the summer, not to mention Guantanamo and the Middle East. The Los Angeles Times reports that nothing may be done till after the 2010 elections. Even now, notwithstanding the majorities of Democrats in both houses, there seems to be little appetite to move quickly. The Senate leadership on the issue is absent -- Sen. Edward Kennedy because of health and Sen. John McCain who is AWOL. In the House the weak link are the "blue dog" Democrats -- about 40 members from conservative districts who were either silent on, or hostile to, legalization. But advocates of reform are not without powerful support. The Democrats still strongly favor comprehensive reform and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants action this year. If the issue hangs on into next year, the legislators will then become reluctant to face the electorate having favored "a path to citizenship" -- especially for the "blue dogs". That could be obviated by taking a harder line on border security and workplace enforcement -- no one welcomes that direction. Still there is no prospect that things will be better after 2010, since traditionally the party in power suffers in off-year elections. A delay might give Obama an opportunity to solidify his gains among Hispanic voters and his chances for reelection in states like Florida, Colorado and New Mexico -- perhaps even in GOP bastions like Texas and Arizona -- by thumping the issue. But the fate of 12 million undocumented should not be held in the balance for electoral politics.

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