President Obama headed down to El Paso, Texas to give a speech on comprehensive immigration reform. I'm certain he has absolutely no expectation of having this Congress pass anything close to what he has in mind, but it signals the issue as a 2012 campaign issue to counter Republicans' constant fearmongering and promise to make Shari'a law an issue in their 2012 campaigns.
On steps this administration has taken to secure the borders, in spite of the Republican whining that they're insecure:
They wanted a fence. Well, that fence is now basically complete.
And we’ve gone further. We tripled the number of intelligence analysts working the border. I’ve deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies from Texas to California. We’ve forged a partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations that have affected both of our countries. And for the first time we are screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments – to seize guns and money going south even as we go after drugs coming north.
So, we have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I suspect there will be those who will try to move the goal posts one more time. They’ll say we need to triple the border patrol. Or quadruple the border patrol. They’ll say we need a higher fence to support reform.
Maybe they’ll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat.
They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.
Reminding that in the past, Republicans were for immigration reform before they were against it:
There are Democrats and Republicans, including former-Republican Senator Mel Martinez and former-Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; leaders like Mayor Michael Bloomberg; evangelical ministers like Leith Anderson and Bill Hybels; police chiefs from across the nation; educators and advocates; labor unions and chambers of commerce; small business owners and Fortune 500 CEOs. One CEO had this to say about reform. “American ingenuity is a product of the openness and diversity of this society… Immigrants have made America great as the world leader in business, science, higher education and innovation.” That’s Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News, and an immigrant himself. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his views, but let’s just say he doesn’t have an Obama bumper sticker on his car.
Moving on to the framework for comprehensive immigration reform (Full document, PDF):
- Continuing to invest in technological assets along the border, including unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance technology programs;
- Cracking down on misuse of passports and visas to commit fraud, and significantly expanding criminal penalties associated with such offenses;
- Increasing existing penalties and sanctions, with particular emphasis paid to immigration- related criminal prosecution efforts;
- Continuing to support border relief grants to help fund state, local, and tribal agencies grappling with border issues;
- Mandating increased civil rights and civil liberties training for Border Patrol officers;
- Modifying immigration processes so that DHS can quickly remove individuals who are willing to voluntarily leave the country; and
- Addressing critical detention issues, including expanding the use of alternatives to detention programs.
This is all great, but there's still that pesky problem of the Administration aggressively working to deport immigrants at a point where getting Republicans to the table on this is probably nothing more than a pipe dream.
Even so, Obama may have a tough time convincing his own allies that he's seriously committed to a fully revamped immigration system, as the Republican-controlled House essentially rules out any action. Pro-immigration advocates are calling for Obama to slow the administration’s deportation of illegal immigrants and ease up on other enforcement tactics—a move the president’s unlikely to make, given the White House’s pride in its heavy enforcement strategy.
Joan McCarter has a great quote from Lamar Smith on immigration which sums up the President's chances of finding consensus on immigration. Even with Mr. Obama's tweak at Rupert Murdoch, Fox News will continue their constant fearmongering while the Tea Party continues to exercise its right to be completely xenophobic and recalcitrant.
On the other hand, the Washington Post thinks he scored big with this speech. Whether he did or he didn't, the issue is now out on the table and Republicans will need to decide whether they want to risk alienating generations of Latinos or consider a negotiated surrender.