Obama Heads to Hill to Talk Immigration Reform

Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 11:14 am
President Barack Obama (WDCpix)

President Barack Obama (WDCpix)

Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform have high hopes for President Obama’s meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon with Congressional leaders on the issue, but it’s not clear that a bill will even be proposed this year.

At a National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast last week, President Obama won applause when he promised Latino religious leaders that he’s “committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform.” But on Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs signalled that movement on immigration was not likely anytime soon. Despite “the president’s desire for it to happen,” said Gibbs,“currently where we sit the math makes that real difficult.”

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Congressional leaders don’t necessarily agree. On Tuesday, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he believes he does have the votes in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform this year.

Advocates, meanwhile, who’ve worked hard to form a broad-based coalition of religious, ethnic, labor and civil rights groups around the issue, complete with its own website, ReformImmigrationForAmerica.org, are eager to keep immigration reform on the president’s agenda.

“We see this as a critical moment of truth on immigration,” said Jaime Soto, the bishop of Sacramento, who participated in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday set up by the National Immigration Forum. “Tomorrow’s meeting will tell us whether the administration is serious about enacting immigration reform this year, or getting timid.”

For Soto and his colleagues, immigration reform means a package of measure that both ease enforcement of current immigration restrictions and provides a path to legalization for many of the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants that live in the United States already.

Signaling his support for the idea, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the immigration subcommittee, at a conference at Georgetown University on Wednesday announced seven key principles to guide immigration reform. Those include a statement that “illegal immigration is wrong” and must be dramatically curtailed; the United States needs to better control its borders through improved technology, infrastructure and more border agents; a reliable employer verification system to keep employers from hiring illegal immigrants; registration by all illegal immigrants in the United States to qualify for a path to citizenship; family reunification; encouragement of “the world’s best and brightest individuals” to come to the U.S.; and a more “controlled flow” of unskilled workers who can contribute to the economy.

“When the President asks me whether we can pass comprehensive immigration reform this Congress, I will smile and say, ‘Mr. President, yes we can.,’ ” Schumer told the group gathered at Georgetown, organized by the Migration Policy Institute. “All of the fundamental building blocks are in place to pass comprehensive immigration reform this session and, even possibly, later this year.’

Schumer did not acknowledge the contradictory statement by Gibbs earlier this week. But in setting out broad principles, Schumer tried to navigate carefully among the many constituencies interested in immigration reform, from Latino and civil rights groups to labor organizations and business interests, all of which emphasize different principles differently.

“He really focused on the fact that credible enforcement has to be a big part of this,” said Michele Waslin, Senior Policy Analyst at the Immigration Policy Center, who attended the conference at Georgetown. “They need to admit that illegal immigration is wrong. I think that in his seven principles he really touched on all the key elements,” she said. “I’m sure he pleased a lot of constituencies.”

Still, on the National Immigration Forum’s conference call yesterday, it was clear that the tension between labor organizations’ support for legalization of immigrants, which would potentially create more union members, and business groups’ interest in a temporary guest-worker program remains to be resolved.

Tamar Jacoby, president of Immigrationworks USA, a national federation of employers concerned about immigration law, said that employers are as interested in immigration reform as immigrants’ advocates. “It’s absolutely essential to employers who rely on immigration that there be a way for workers to enter the country legally,” she said. “That’s not negotiable from a business point of view.” Employers are advocating for a commission that would make the number of temporary work visas available responsive to market conditions, she said.

But Mark Lauritsen, Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said his union opposes any “guest worker schemes.” “Any bill that comes through with these guest worker schemes is not going to work,” he said. “It’s going to create a problem. If anyone is good enough to come into this country and get a job, then they’re good enough to participate in all aspects,” he said. “It’s going to fall on its face to say we need workers but we’re going to use you up, burn you up, get rid of you in a year.” Although he was open to the idea of a commission, it should be to determine full immigration rights, not temporary work status, he said.

Still, Jacoby was eager to suggest that compromise was possible. “This is not an easy issue, many different constituencies have a stake in this,” she said. “The job of politics is to negotiate an agreement where everybody gets enough. That’s what we’re all anticipating the president is kicking off.”

The recently proposed Agricultural Job Opportunities and Benefits Act, known as AgJobs, introduced in Congress attempts to forge just such a compromise, making it easier for employers to show they need to hire foreign labor for farmwork, and providing some of those workers a path to legalization and citizenship. Other pending immigration bills, such as the DREAM Act, address the humanitarian side of immigration reform, and would provide some children of undocumented aliens who’ve been raised in the United States with a path to citizenship.

Advocates for immigration reform appear so far to have convinced members of Congress not to put those bills up for a vote separately, but to make them part of a larger comprehensive package that would please a broad range of constituencies.

Still, there are some vocal hard-line restrictionist immigration groups who disapprove of all attempts at a comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalization for undocumented immigrants — what they call “amnesty” for illegal aliens. They’ve been lobbying Congress hard against it, portraying immigrants as eager and ready to snatch up scarce American jobs.

“I don’t see it as a kick-off,” said Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, which advocates restricting immigration, referring to the president’s meeting with congressional leaders on Thursday. “I think the fact that they’re bringing in a number of members of Congress who will be defiantly against a comprehensive immigration bill suggests that the purpose of this meeting is more to lay out the broad spectrum that’s there in Congress and show how difficult it will be to put together a majority to pass a bill,” he said. In addition to to the conflict over guest workers, he noted that Schumer, for example, supports a national identification card, while civil liberties groups such as the ACLU oppose that. “It seems the president is giving himself some cover to hold back a little from the Hispanic caucus,” said Beck. “They’re the only members of congress keeping this thing alive.”

Beck emphasized that the last time a comprehensive immigration reform bill including “amnesty” was proposed in Congress with the support of President George W. Bush, it didn’t pass. “Why would members who voted against it in 07 when the economy was strong vote for it now?” he asked.

Advocates of immigration reform hope that this time, members of Congress will be able to come up with a better compromise, and that Obama will lend his own powers of persuasion to the effort. “Reid said he’s committed to moving on immigration reform, the votes are there, and the real challenge is to find the floor time,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group. “We’ve been working on this issue for a very long time. There’s no question there are solid majorities in both the House and Senate that are easily imagined for the bill to be enacted. The question is, are we going to have sufficient presidential leadership, are we going to have democrats propose legislation,” and “are there going to be republicans who are willing to stand up and cooperate with the White House to get this done?”

Although advocates don’t expect any specific commitments from members of Congress or President Obama on Thursday, Sharry say they’re hoping for at least a “road map” of next steps on moving immigration reform forward: “who’s going to do what to make those steps happen will be very important.”



Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

Republicans worry about losing the latino vote, but Democrats need to worry about losing everybody else's vote if they grant amnesty to tens of millions of criminals.

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

CHANGE your mind
Right reform is not sharing the milk with those people
It is saving milk for everybody

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

Not true. The clear majority of Americans (approaching two-thirds, I believe, according to the Center for American Progress) now supports comprehensive immigration.

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

Now, for the things Daphne Eviatar's Soros[TM]-brand shock collar won't let her tell you, the DREAM Act is anything but humanitarian. It's an anti-American bill that would let foreign citizens take college educations away from U.S. citizens. Anyone who supports it is turning their back on U.S. citizens in order to help foreign citizens who are here illegally, and you should return the favor by turning your back on them.

For all the other things Eviatar won't tell you, subscribe to my feed or use the search tools at my site for the names of specific politicians and groups, for instance, Jacoby.

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

Poll questions about these issues always omit the downsides. And, the MSM has constantly lied about this issue. Those polls are just to fool people and to comfort the corrupt politicians who support illegal activity.

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

no one is taking anything from us if we get up and stop being lazy then how will people who can't speak english get our jobs and other things. THINK!!!!!

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

Your polls are not scientific. Millions of United States citizens who are out of work will never support illegal invaders taking more of our jobs. Millions of water drinkers will not support the strain on our infrastructure caused by the over-populating illegal immigrants. Millions of PATRIOTS WILL NOT STAND FOR THE RACIST, SEPARATIST RECONQUISTA OF OUR LAND.

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

I do not think that a reform to the Immigration Law would be an “amnesty”. In an amnesty all illegal would get legal documents; but a comprenhensive immigration reforrm would have certain requirements people would have to meet. An immigration reform will be of benefit not only for undocumented people but for the country as well. As of today, the government does not have knowledge of who all these people are, where they are and if they have commited a crime or not because many of them do not even have documents from their own countries. All those who opose an immigration reform do not realize that it would be impossible to deport each and everyone of these hardworking people, who in many cases pay their taxes (most of them do not receive benefits because the do not qualify due to their illegal status, so no, they are not a burden for the society). With a reform, more people who would qualify will pay taxes; they will keep working as hard as they are doing today and even more because they are grateful of the opportunities they have here for a better and more dignifying life than in their own countries; the country won't loose bright minds as of those young people who have been raised end educated in this country, this is their country, the only one they know, they love it and they are loyal to it.
So it is time already to have an immigration reform!

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 6:25 pm

Davidson say…..The clear majority of Americans (approaching two-thirds, I believe, according to the Center for American Progress) now supports comprehensive immigration

BS !! And the Center for American Progress believes in amnesty so of course their numbers would be for the illegals. Most polls show about 70% of Americans DO NOT SUPPORT AMNESTY. Why should people who have no regard for our laws be granted citizenship? If that happens then citizenship becomes a joke. Enforce the immigration laws and deport those who flaunt our laws. Obama is going to have a huge problem when he starts the amnesty push again. Americans defeated it in 2007 and will do so again.

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

Pres. Obama meets today (6/25) with a bi-partisan group from Congress to “jump-start” plans to pass a giant amnesty for 12-20 million illegal aliens and their extended families, another 48-80 million.

Why, for heaven's sake, would Obama and Congress want to makes things even worse on America's 14 million unemployed (which is actually much larger including those whose benefits ran out, etc.)?

Stop the Invasion – Join NumbersUSA.com

Call the White House today!

Those who come here illegally, steal our IDs and ignore our laws have already demonstrated they lack the honesty and decency to ever become American citizens.

a.) Enforce the existing immigration laws.
b.) Secure the border.
c.) Don't hire illegal aliens.
d.) No anchor babies.
e.) Deportation through attrition.

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

I think people are misunderstanding the concept of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The NumbersUSA and FAIR folk are busy in these commentaries trying to put into the minds of the people that its a giant amnesty. But in reality it isn't. Yes, it is a path to citizenship, but only if certain requirements are met (for example a hefty fine, learn English, pay taxes …etc). Immigration Reform can take many forms. We can deport, punish, incarcerate and so on but unfortunately to deport or incarcerate 12-20 million people is not COMPREHENSIVE. Therefore there must be a Comprehensive Reform done to our immigration system. Secure our borders is a must, but what to do with the 12 million that that are already here and already have our jobs? well they already leech of our system so might as well start sucking back the blood they sucked from us. Have them pay a fine, have them pay their taxes, have them learn English and be productive, contributing members of society. It makes sense to me. its seems pretty comprehensive to me…

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

Obama want's amnesty for people who defy the sovereignty of our Nation.

Educate yourself about the Plan de Aztlan.


These people are racist separatists who openly seek to carry out the displacement and genocide of United States citizens.

These people see the generosity of the United States as weakness.

Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

Try looking into some of the plans that the white supremacy groups have for the U.S. The playing field is as level as you can get it when it comes to silly extremist ideas like plan de aztlan.

Immigration Debate Kicks Off | The Lie Politic
Pingback posted June 27, 2009 @ 1:21 am

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Comment posted June 29, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

We need to correctly identify every undocumented person living in the U.S. This could be done by opening the closed military bases in each state and putting U.S. citizens to work administratively. If the undocumented person is working, issue a valid temporary SSN and require a notification that this position is open for a U.S. citizen to have this job in 3 months, if no takers, the temp person may remain, but they must pay a fine and go to the end of the line for getting a permanent work visa. If the undocumented person is not working, or is not a dependent of a working spouse or has a criminal history, deport them. Make it easy for employers to identify people who are not authorized to work in the U.S., so they don't get hired! And finally, stop allowing undocumented foreigners from enrolling in colleges – graduates cannot work in the U.S., the education cannot be used to help our economy legally.

Comment posted July 3, 2009 @ 5:08 am

Who would know better about immigration than a man who was elected president even though he is an illegal-alien.

Comment posted August 11, 2009 @ 5:13 am

Ummm, Americans didn't necessarily defeat anything, it was the senate and congress who defeated the proposal. So if you didn't even know that, how can you comment on this subject matter? If we put the immigration reform to an actual majority vote of the U.S. population, then maybe we could get a more accurate decision on what American citizens actually think about immigration reform.

Comment posted March 9, 2010 @ 4:25 am

I think we need to realize that this is a country made by immigrants so its kind of stupid when people say that illegal immigration is wrong.You would first need to learn some history inorder to talk about immigration.I think an immigration reform will not only help many people it will help the economy there about 12 million illegal immigrants if they each pay for everything that they get like ssn we would have a better economy. We are on the 21st century people need to get over their racist ideas..and just in case you haven looked around there is no way to stop illegal immigration…so just get over it

Comment posted May 20, 2010 @ 4:34 am

There is nothing racist in this because they are not another race but ethnicity. They keep going on about Mexicans but they are pouring in from a variety of countries south of us via Mexico. This land has been settled for years so that argument is moot. We now have laws of the land and they regulate immigrantion. When one section of the world takes it upon themselves to break our laws, bringing in disease, crime and burdening our welfare systems so many things are cancelled due to lack of funds and our schools are closing because not enough money due to people not paying taxes, collecting under the table…it is high time to do what every other country does…deport them, fine them or lock them up, but excuse them…NO. They knew they were breaking our laws when they came here otherwise they would have walked right through the Border Patrol checkpoints. Many of those coming across are children traveling by themselves. They die in our deserts. Fix your countries folks so your citizens can live well in their own countries. Obama…listen to the American people…they do not want to give amnesty to anymore illegal aliens.

Comment posted May 20, 2010 @ 4:58 am

The way I feel about it is this…if Obama and his staff sue Arizona and/or give amnesty to the illegals I will get with other seniors and try to get enough signatures to see Obama impeached. He just doesn't listen to the people and I mean the poor people here that are suffering because our programs are bust due to all these people taking it who never deserved it in the first place…homelessness is rampant. I am sick of reading these articles and feeling helpless to do anything about it on a federal and state level. Where do I go to live in a place where the streets are clean and there are no gangs and disease being brought over the border…the Moon?

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Pingback posted June 22, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

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Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 6:23 am

so they don't get hired! And finally, stop allowing undocumented foreigners from enrolling in colleges – graduates cannot work in the U.S., the education cannot be used to help our economy legally.

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