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Obama Prays for Immigration Reform « The Washington Independent

Addressing a National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast sponsored by Esperanza, a Hispanic religious coalition, President Obama this morning won applause for reiterating his commitment to immigration reform.

Quoting scripture, invoking the “love thy neighbor” religious command and noting the nomination of the first Hispanic to be a justice on the Supreme Court, Obama declared that “upholding America’s tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants” is not contradictory, but “complementary.”

“That’s why I’m committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.

Of course, Obama’s been saying that for a while now, but he has yet to propose or back a comprehensive immigration reform plan. In April, the White House said that the president would speak publicly about immigration reform in May, but he still hasn’t made any particularly notable public speeches on the issue, other than to relatively small audiences of Hispanic groups. This morning’s prayer breakfast was attended by no more than 200 people.

That may be because the president has a lot of other priorities on his plate — the economy, two wars and health care reform, to name a few. But it also may be that the administration is afraid to push what immigration restrictionists call “amnesty” for illegal immigrants that many Americans fear are just going to take their jobs.

Although he and Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano have said they support the DREAM Act, which would legalize some children of undocumented immigrants, Obama has also said that should be part of a larger bill Democrats in Congress apparently agree, because they haven’t put it up separately for a vote.

Obama is scheduled to meet with members of Congress next week to discuss comprehensive immigration reform. When he does that and he finally speaks to a larger audience about the idea, he’ll need to make the very logical case that legalizing undocumented immigrant workers will actually be good for the economy — by increasing tax revenue, boosting wages and increasing demand — as former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan testified in April, and a broad range of economic studies have shown.

It’s still not clear, though, how much political capital the president is willing to spend to make that case.

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