Thursday, July 1, 2010
For the first time in 18 months as president, Obama Thursday delivered a major speech calling for immigration reform legislation.
It fulfills a campaign promise to his Hispanic supporters. He called for a path to citizenry for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, a road his opponents describe derisively as amnesty.
Obama also signaled to Hispanics not to get their hopes up if the legislative package -- he did not spell out with specifics or set a timetable -- won support from enough Republicans.
Translation: Democrats in his own party don't want to touch this hot-button issue with a fork. They have enough problems in the November midterms without being saddled with immigration.
The Los Angeles Times:
“We can create a pathway for legal status that is fair and reflective of our values and works,” Obama said in his speech at American University. “The question now is do we have the courage and political will to pass a bill through Congress and finally get it done.
“I’m ready to move forward. But the fact is without bipartisan support we cannot solve this problem. We cannot pass comprehensive reform without Republican votes. That is a political and mathematical reality.”
Obama politically was mugged into itching the scab known as immigration reform. The 50 million Hispanic population in the U.S. represents a large percentage of his base of support.
In May, national attention was heaped on Arizona when its Republican Legislature passed a law rubber stamped by Gov. Jan Brewer that made it illegal to step foot in the state without proper documentation of national origin.
That law and more passed in Arizona and other states were embarrassing for it meant they were taking matters in their own hands in areas usually reserved for the feds.
“The border is more secure today than at any time in the last 20 years,” the president said in his speech.
Assertions such as that drive his opponents nuts, especially those who live near the Mexican border and have to live daily with what they consider a heinous problem.
Not to mention residents in interior states from the Rockies to New England who view the predominately Hispanic work force as a drain on their health and safety public services.
As late as Monday, Hispanic lawmakers who have criticized Obama for being lethargic on the issue, met with Obama and his people in the White House. The Times article said they left pleased.
In the past, Obama said the illegal immigrants who have permanently settled in the United States need to go to the "back of the line," pay a fine, learn English and then submit to the citizenship process.
Whatever path immigration reform takes, it must include border and interior enforcement, employer sanctions and a streamlined resolution what to do with families who want to live here permanently.
For a president who prides himself in mastering details of complex issues, he was not exactly forthright saying the border today is more secure than in the past 20 years.
He was spot on in that arrests along the 1,933-mile border from California to Texas are down 54%, from 1,171,396 to 540,865, between 2005-2009.
At the same time, U.S. Border Patrol agents increased from 9,891 to 17,408. Last week, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, increased assignment to the Tucson sector to 3,318 agents, the most of any sector along the border.
The decrease is not in itself increased Border Patrol officers, says T.J. Bonner, president of the union representing 17,000 agents. It reflects a downturn in the U.S. economy beginning as early as 2007.
Bonner in an article in the Free Republic Wednesday is quoted that the sharp increase in drug seizures has coincided with a steady decline in apprehensions, indicating to him that the agency cannot handle both problems at once.
He said once the economy recovers, the illegal entry tide will rise again. His agents apprehend about one out of three persons illegally crossing the border.
Speaking as a cop true to his profession:
“Are we anywhere close to border security? No, we’re not. True border security means that no thing and no person crosses that border without our permission.”
What few people realize is that the Obama administration has kept a low profile in targeting employers who hire illegal immigrants, a weapon that strikes at the heart of the problem.
Two immigration attorneys co-authored this report on the California Employment Attorney website:
In the past nine months, 65 employers have been arrested and 109 companies have been fined a total of about $3 million. The government has also notified more than 1,600 companies nationwide of plans to audit their records, and has already begun hundreds of inspections.
The Obama policy is a stark contrast to the Bush administration which they said:
(C)onducted work-site raids that targeted employees rather than employers. Although thousands of illegal workers were prosecuted, few employers were held accountable for their hiring practices and new illegal immigrants replaced those who were deported.
What the attorneys are advocating to their clients is joining E-Verify, a voluntary electronic program that checks whether new hires are authorized to work in the United States. They said about 1,400 new businesses each week join, with enrollment in June of about 17,000 employers in California and 204,000 nationwide.
I wish Obama luck. I don't think he has his heart in it, politically. Under current laws, enforcement of employer sanctions will work if it is applied with the same mindset as Bonner, the union boss. Think of the outcry when homeowners are fined and tossed in the pokey when arrested for hiring illegal workers hanging around the Home Depots and other drive-by places of "employment." If you drain the pool, the horses will not come to drink.
(Cartoon from Insights on Law & Society)