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Obama and Immigration Reform: Will He Or Won’t He?

February 20, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin

The conventional wisdom among many in the media is that the President of the United States won’t touch the controversial issue of comprehensive immigration reform anytime soon.  The economy is in deep trouble, opportunity for immigrant and non-immigrant families is drying up, immigration traffic on the border has slowed, and we have had several years of bruising debate with the opponents of immigration reform succeeding in thwarting it.


Well somebody ought to tell that to President Obama.  He’s been talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform a lot lately, including on two of the highest rated radio programs in the country, the nationally syndicated Piolín Por la Mañana with Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, and Chicago’s El Pistolero, with Rafael “El Pistolero” Pulido, both carried by the Univision radio network. As we reported yesterday, the President told El Piolín on Tuesday,


“[W]e’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform…[We] need to get started working on it now.  It’s going to take some time to move that forward, but I’m very committed to making it happen.  And we’re going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months.  (President Barack Obama, interviewed by Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, February 17, 2009)


That will come as good news to Ruben Navarrette, Jr.  One of the (very) few Hispanic nationally syndicated columnists, he writes columns and editorials for the San Diego Union-Tribune and a weekly column for  In his latest column, Navarrette advises the President to “serve up his plan for immigration reform.”


While squeamish political strategists will tell you that it is never a good time to grab hold of such a thorny issue, Obama has some capital now. He should spend some of it on fixing the broken immigration system.


In doing so, he would avoid repeating a mistake by his predecessor. In one of his final interviews as president, George W. Bush said that he should have pursued immigration reform at the start of his second term instead of tackling the challenging issue of shoring up Social Security.


Besides, the political picture is only likely to get more complicated as the months pass. The more controversial the legislation, the less likely it is to get done in an election year. So if Obama doesn't put a plan on the table this year, it'll push the debate into 2011.

-- Ruben Navarrette, Jr., “Time for immigration reform is now,”, February 20, 2009


Close observers know that Navarrette is no open-borders zealot and is a strong proponent of enforcing current law and speeding up deportations.  When it comes to immigration, he has made a point of poking his finger in the eye of some of the most prominent Latino civil rights groups and pro-immigrant advocacy organizations, like the Forum.


However, he clearly understands that expectations are high among those most concerned with immigration reform.  The last several years have been brutal on immigrant communities who feel the slowing economy severely, have witnessed unprecedented raids and neighborhood sweeps, and record levels of deportation and incarceration.


Furthermore, 10 to 11 million Latinos – many immigrants and most concerned with the immigration issue -- voted in November (up from about 3 million in 2004).  They decidedly shifted towards the Democratic Party and President Obama, which caused the President and his party to win Nevada, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado and which played a significant role in his winning Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia.


So the pressure on the Obama Administration to deliver on comprehensive immigration reform is significant, and here at ImmPolitic, we have to agree with Ruben Navarrette when he says,


 Guess what, Mr. President. That time is now.


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