Low Expectations for Obama’s Immigration Speech
President Obama’s planned speech on immigration reform tomorrow has been lauded as indication of a renewed commitment to immigration reform, as have his meetings early this week with advocates and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. So what will the president say? Unfortunately for reform advocates, not much that’s new: Obama is expected mostly to retread familiar ground on the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, rather than offering specific provisions he’d like to see in the law.
States aren’t waiting for reform – NPR reports that 45 states have introduced more than 1,000 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants so far this year — and polls indicate that most Americans support Arizona-style laws to curb illegal immigration. In theory, the issue should be resolved at a nationwide level to prevent harsh laws from driving illegal immigrants into other states. (There’s some concern that the Arizona law is already having that effect.) But no Republican senator has emerged to back a comprehensive bill, and with midterm elections in sight, rounding up votes for a controversial topic might be difficult before a potential lame-duck session.
Advocates are wary of talk — they want action, and preferably not solely in the form of enforcement. After a meeting of immigration reform advocates in San Diego this weekend, activists told The Washington Post they don’t think comprehensive reform will be taken up this year, regardless of Obama’s words:
“At this point, we’re looking at George W. Bush longingly,” joked Louie Gilot of the Border Network for Human Rights, based in El Paso. “We were promised change by the administration. But we’re not only getting the same enforcement-only policy, we’re getting even more of it.”