Blog & Updates
Dems, Republicans, and Advos Respond to Postponed Obama Immigration Meeting
June 15, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
On Friday, word began leaking that the White House meeting between President Obama and a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders scheduled for his Wednesday to discuss immigration reform plans had been postponed. As of this hour, no date for rescheduling has been made public.
Reaction was mixed, but few in the pro-immigrant world saw the meeting’s postponement as a sign of flagging support from the White House.
Frank Sharry of America’s Voice told Politico.com:
While we are disappointed that the meeting has been delayed, we are confident that immigration reform will move forward this fall. The president has promised to advance the issue many times, and we believe he is a man of his word.
But Florida Republican Party mover and shaker Ana Navarro was more pointed in the same Politico.com story:
They are stringing along the immig[ation] advocates and Latino groups to whom Obama owes so much. Latinos need to stand their ground, hold his feet to the fire and demand that he deliver on repeated promises to get this done in the first year or call him out on it. This is a litmus test for Hispanics, and one which so far Obama is failing.
Over at The Hill, activist Francisco Lopez, executive director of Oregon’s largest grassroots immigrant-rights coalition and a partner said:
Patience is wearing thin in the Latino and immigrant communities and President Obama needs to follow through with the commitment he made to more than 10 million Latinos that voted in the last presidential election.
And the opponents of immigration reform used the meeting’s delay to declare immigration reform dead. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), the Chair of the House Immigration Reform Caucus (more accurately, the House Immigration Restrictionist Caucus) formed by former Rep. Tom Tancredo, told The Hill that reform was already dead because it’s bad politics and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel should know that:
Rahm is a very politically sharp Chicago politician, and he sees that this is an issue that could hurt his majority severely enough in the moderate districts. And he’s smart enough to know that even though he’s getting pressure by the open-borders crowd to do something now, he’s trying to hold it off until after the next cycle.
But since all of the polls indicate that supporting immigration reform that includes legalization is the more politically popular position, Bilbray’s comments don’t make much sense. The San Jose Mercury News cites a Pew Hispanic Center poll:
In a January survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 63 percent of the public — 5 percent higher than in 2007 — favored “providing a way for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to gain legal citizenship.”
Indeed, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie disagrees with Rep. Bilbray wholeheartedly. He sees being supportive of immigration reform as a way of correcting GOP mistakes of the past, according to the Mercury News:
We sure blew it the last time on immigration reform,” Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman, told a tech group last week. If Congress takes up the issue in a serious way this year, “that would be an opportunity to make up some lost ground.”
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee in the House, was also quoted in the Mercury News and she put the political liability of not working on immigration reform in sharp relief:
“[President Obama] has to do more than say, ‘I’m for it.’ It’s essential for him to put some personal effort into this,” said Lofgren, who will attend the White House meeting.
If nothing gets done on immigration reform this year, “Latino voters will blame him, because the president created the expectation we will see results,” she added.
We think delaying the meeting is a mistake. Momentum is building for comprehensive immigration reform with more and more Americans demanding solutions. The President is too smart not to move on immigration reform this year. We don’t see this as a signal that President Obama is stepping back from reform.
In the end, one White House meeting does not make or break comprehensive immigration reform. It is symbolically helpful because it signals to the Hill and to country that immigration reform and the President’s desire to see it happen are serious. But ultimately, it’s up top Congress to act and, meeting or not, every indication is that Congress is planning to.