Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Obama to Tackle Immigration Reform Despite Risks

The New York Times reported today that President Obama plans to begin addressing comprehensive immigration reform this year including creating a path to legalize the status of millions of illegal immigrants.

According to administration officials, Obama plans to speak publicly about immigration in May. This was something he had promised to Congressional Hispanic Caucus members when they met a few weeks ago. Throughout the summer, he will convene working groups of lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups to begin discussing possible legislation for the fall.

White House officials said that immigration will not take precedence over healthcare and energy proposals that Obama has identified as priorities.

Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs for the White House said Obama will frame the new effort as “policy reform that controls immigration and makes it an orderly system”.

Obama recognizes that immigration is a passionate issue for many. “I know this is an emotional issue; I know it’s a controversial issue,” he told an audience at a town meeting on March 18 in Costa Mesa, Calif. “I know that the people get real riled up politically about this.”

However, he stressed that immigrants who are long-time residents but lack legal status “have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows.”

The Obama administration favors legislation that would bring illegal immigrants into the legal system by recognizing that they violated the law and imposing fines and other penalties to fit the offense.

The proposed legislation would also seek to prevent future illegal immigration by strengthening border enforcement and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants while creating a national system for verifying the legal immigration status of new workers.

Some critics say that it would be “politically disastrous” for Obama to begin an immigration initiative in this economic client. Many Republicans will seek to mobilize popular outrage against any effort to legalize unauthorized immigrant workers while so many Americans are unemployed.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has been helping generate a civil rights movement in favor of broad immigration legislation. He has been on the road since December traveling to churches across the nation and holding town hall style meetings with Hispanic communities. His meetings consist of citizens telling stories of how loved ones have been deported and their families have been divided due to immigration.

Gutierrez rejected the idea that the timing is bad for an immigration debate. “There is never a wrong time for us. Families are being divided and destroyed, and they need help now.”

New York Times