Obama Calls for Inclusive Immigration Reform; Right Prepares for Battle

January 29, 2013

by Jeremy Leaming

President Obama lauded bipartisan Senate work on immigration reform, but went further by calling for a clearer path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, without tying it to rigid border security measures.

From Las Vegas, the president warned of a pitched battle as reform proposals advance, saying, “We can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate. We’ve been debating this a very long time.”

The New York Times reported that the White House “is also proposing that the United States treat same-sex couples the same as other families, meaning that people would be able to use their relationship as a basis to obtain a visa.”

During his speech, Obama said, “Think about it – we define ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are – in our bones. The promise we see in those who come here from every corner of the globe, that’s always been one of our greatest strengths. It keeps our workforce young. It keeps our country on the cutting edge. And it’s helped the greatest economic engine the world has ever known.” (Video of speech available by clickng picture.)

Longtime advocates of immigration reform like MALDEF sounded a cautiously optimistic note, and offered praise of the president’s speech.

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said, the president “directly challenged all of us to put aside exclusionary xenophobia and to recognize our common immigrant heritage and our common mission of serving family and country."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who will conduct a hearing on immigration reform following the State of the Union Address, said in a press statement that he was “particularly pleased to see that the president’s proposal includes better access to visas for victims of domestic and sexual violence, improved laws for refugees and asylum seekers, an enhanced investor visa program, and the assurance that every family, including binational gay and lesbian spouses, receives equal treatment under the law.”

Right-wing groups have long fought immigration reform and many aren’t likely to halt their efforts to scuttle reform. Rush Limbaugh, right-wing radio host, said he and Fox News must step up to destroy reform.

Salon’s Alex Pareene explains why he believes reform is doomed. Pareene lays out three reasons, including right-wing media. But notes the problem for immigration reform is that too much of the Republican Party still does not want comprehensive reform.

He writes:

As all of America’s recent legislative fights have shown, House Republicans are protected from national anti-conservative trends by very safe and conservative districts. They are more vulnerable to getting primaried than they are to losing to moderates or Democrats in a general election. A majority of Americans may now support a path to citizenship, but a majority of Americans also support hiking taxes on the rich, and the GOP nearly shut down the government rather than agree to that.