July 1st, 2010
08:13 AM ET
4 years ago

What's behind Obama's immigration reform push?

President Obama is pushing to get immigration reform passed this year.
President Obama is pushing to get immigration reform passed this year.

Washington (CNN) – Immigration reform has been something of an albatross around the necks of politicians for years. The lack of a comprehensive federal policy has not only angered those in Congress, but the public as well.

And with President Obama's push Thursday to get immigration reform passed this year, analysts said the stakes are high even if it's not a top issue facing the country.

"We've been trying to do immigration reform steadily for the last five years and on and off for quite a bit longer than that," said Marc Rosenblum, a senior policy analyst at Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. "I think that voters are impatient - especially folks who have a real stake in this issue: immigrants and their families and business that employ them."

Rosenblum knows the daunting challenge immigration reform faces in Congress. As a fellow in the office of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, he helped craft legislation during the 2006 immigration debate. The legislation ultimately failed to gain traction.

He said Arizona's controversial new immigration law, which many critics liken to racial profiling, has pushed reform to the forefront of Democrats' minds.

"The Arizona law definitely forced the issue and has raised its profile at the national level," Rosenblum said. "There's no question that Latino voters care about this issue and have tried to make that connection and that there are people in the Democratic leadership who are watching and concerned about it."

Obama took aim at the law, saying in a May news conference that the law was the wrong approach to tackling the issue - though he understood the impetus for it.

"I understand the frustrations of the people of Arizona and a lot of folks along the border that that border has not been entirely secured in a way that is both true to our traditions as a nation of law and as a nation of immigrants," he said.

Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said those concerns brought the immigration debate back after much of the attention has been focused on economic recovery and health care reform.

The law, he said, "probably prompted action from the White House."

And it's with good reason, according to a national poll.

In late May, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that six in 10 respondents found that the federal government should focus on stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S., deporting those already here and supporting more border security.

The same poll also found that 57 percent of those surveyed favored Arizona's new law, while 37 percent opposed it.

Immigration is not necessarily a make-it-or-break-it issue for the influential voting bloc. A Pew study released in 2008 indicated that Latinos placed immigration second to last on a list of seven policy priorities. The economy, education and health care were ranked as more important.

Democrats, though, recognize that Latinos are important to winning office. In 2008, Latino voters overwhelmingly supported Obama at the polls.

As a presidential candidate, Obama promised to move on immigration reform, saying the election was a chance to quit playing politics and address immigration.

Republicans have largely been silent on the immigration reform push - though Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, helped craft legislation in the Senate alongside Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, has also been a leading advocate over the years for reform.

Rosenblum, who worked on Obama's immigration transition team in 2009, noted many Republicans may be silent because they calculate that Democrats will get credit for any reform bill that is passed.

"On one hand, there's Republicans who perceive that they're harmed by this ... on the other hand, there's not a lot of Republicans who see they can benefit from it," he said. "I think in the long run, a lot of Republican leaders recognize that Latinos are the fastest-growing constituency in the country and they can't succeed without support from Latinos - and they can't be a monolithic anti-immigrant party."

And that may be why congressional Democrats are pushing the issue as the November midterm elections approach.

"I think the clock is ticking on large Democratic majorities," Gonzales said. "If the White House wants to get something significant done in the president's first term, they have to push for it now because I think that the best-case scenario for the Democrats after November will be narrow Democratic majorities. Other scenarios have them maybe losing the House."


Filed under: Congress • Immigration • issues • President Obama
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Daryl

    What a joke! He is going to push reform while he is suing Arizona!!!!!!
    Once again this is lip service. Its all he has.

    July 1, 2010 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  2. Why

    Because he wants more voters,Close the border,Stop the flow, Send em back and quit giving them social security. To heck with calderone.

    July 1, 2010 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  3. Gil

    I hope it is a push to solve a problem that has been haunting our country for years and that has been devisive to our nation. Also, I hope it is to gain votes from some 40+ million Latino and Hispanic Americans for the Democrats. When I hear the talk from Arizona to now deny the children of these immigrants their Constitutional Rights to being American citizens I want to have the republican party eliminated from American government and history once and for all!

    July 1, 2010 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  4. joe in VA

    As usual, the priority of our politicians is simply to keep/enhance their power; not do the things needed to improve our country.

    I wish there were term limits for EVERY politician. I believe that's the only way our elected officials would focus on our nation and not solely on themselves.

    July 1, 2010 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  5. paul

    What is he doing?! Record unemployment as well as UNDERemployment, the catastrophic spill in the gulf, the war in both Iraq and Afghanistan with no end game, healthcare reform that will see no reduction in my premiums and longer wait at the office, taxes out the WA-ZOO, and Mr Obama wants to tackle IMMIGRATION?!!!

    First secure the borders and enforce the laws that so many other countries, like Mexico and Canada have in place, create jobs, lower my taxes and the deficit, return our troops home and then AND ONLY THEN, Mr Obama, worry about your legacy.

    July 1, 2010 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  6. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Flailing, fading, inept, incompetent, lying, corrupt, union toady president trying to add millions of new illegal voters to pad his reelection try in 2012. That is what is behind it. A petulant, vengeful, tantrum thowing idiot that is the face of what is soon to be once again and hopefully forever the minority party. Hopefully after the 2012 elections we will once again have a real leader for this country instead of this destructive personality representing our country to the world. The new president won't win any phone Nobel Peace prizes, but he will be a strong leader, not a cowering, fool like we have now.

    July 1, 2010 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  7. oldscruffy

    This, like all my other comments on CNN, probably won't see the light of day, but here I go. Prez 'bama wants nothing but votes. He does not want to enforce the Constitution in regards to immigration, or anything else for that matter. We will soon have an anti American, anti Constitutional judge to match his beliefs. The Arizona law is 100% Constitutional and the Prez "don't like it." The United States is under attack and he and those idiots like him don't care.

    July 1, 2010 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  8. Peter E

    Immigration debate resurfaces every decade. This isn't anything new. And politicians exploit it every time. Recall in the 80s when Reagan granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, which was just the biggest cause (there were many others) of them trippling in number and leading to the current crisis. Reagan's successors leading up to Bush Jr. pretty much hand-waved their way through the whole thing. Bush Jr. himself was proposing guest worker programs, accelerated citizenships and further amnesty. Luckily those ideas were shut down quickly, but unfortunately didn't entirely go away. Now the republicans are cowering, passing the buck, feeling lucky that the issue wasn't forced while they were in power, and they hope it will give them an opportunity against democrats and Obama. (even though most of the proposals on immigration reform have been taken verbatim from the previous administration)

    July 1, 2010 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  9. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Formula for winning elections: during primary season blame immigrants for all the problems in the country, and collect lots of funds from your xenophobic constituents. Then, once the primaries are over, do an about-face, pander to immigrants, (helps if you learn a few phrases in spanish) and promise 'immigration reform.' Then once you win the election, you can forget about the whole thing for two/four/six years. This formula worked quite well for republicans for almost two decades! (until they ruined the economy enough that they were finally thrown out of power)

    July 1, 2010 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  10. alicia

    That's an easy answer...VOTES!!

    Obama does everything for votes!

    July 1, 2010 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  11. Jim in St. Johns, FL

    What is behind Obama's immigration push?

    Democrat votes in 2012, millions of them.

    Obama doesn't care about Americans citizens that are having their property invaded and sometimes our citizens are murdered, as in Arizona.

    The race card is being played big time. If you support clamping down at the border, you are racist. If you support identifying someone as an illegal if they have an encounter with law enforcement, you are a racist and involved in racial profiling.

    Listen, Islamic extermists are watching the southern border. They must be licking their chops. If these terrorists can pass freely on the southern border, you can bet they won't be picking veggies or laying stucco.

    The Chicago jack booted thugs count votes and if the millions of illegals can be made legal that will result in millions of votes for "the regime".

    July 1, 2010 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  12. CONNIE

    he needs the illegals to get him re-elected in 2012 that is all this is about, and he push it through before reading it as usual. i am tire.

    July 1, 2010 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  13. chelka

    Everyone agrees:
    This is a country of law and this is a country of immigrants.

    This country already has an immigration law.
    That law outlines the process for an immigrant to enter the country and to become an American citizen.

    Those who don't obey the law should not be rewarded.
    As with any other lawbreaker they should be punished.
    In the case of illegal entry, the lawbreakers should be deported.

    It is pure insanity for this country to rewrite (reform) immigration laws to accomodate lawbreakers. Are we insane?

    If the government is too weak or too intimadated to enforce the current law, don't change the law, change the government.

    It is unfathonable that the federal government would not only fail to enforce current immigration law but actually sue Arizonia for attempting to enforce it.

    We don't need reform, we need a government that enforces the law.

    July 1, 2010 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  14. Bob

    Only one thing is behind the immigration reform push...future votes for Democrats.

    July 1, 2010 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  15. Dave C

    The clock IS ticking on dem majorities, that's why Obama is considering an executive order granting amnesty. He thinks that by doing so, he can guarantee his reelection in 2012, otherwise, he's toast.

    July 1, 2010 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  16. Whatever

    The key is to secure ALL borders – North, South, East and West. Don't just focus on one area and forget about the rest. There are a lot of illegals that speak other languages so don't focus soley on one nationality or group, focus on them ALL. Expired VISAs regardless of the type of Visa (good bye)! Expired Employment Authorization Cards (good bye)! Do a clean sweep, let them start the paperwork to come into the U.S. legally and pay a fine.

    July 1, 2010 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  17. Steve in North Carolina

    We ought to offer statehood to Mexico and get it over with. Mexico is extremely rich in natural resources and has the potential to be a prosperous country, but its corrupt government is dominated by a small rich elite who have no desire to distribute wealth to the common population. This is driving its people to illegal immigration to the United States.

    Dissolving the Mexican government along with the border would benefit both countries as an enlarged United States with Mexicans turned into U.S. citizens. We would also be in a better position to seal a shortened southern border against terrorists. This idea has been around since 1848 and we should seriously consider it. We are currently throwing our money down the drain in a futile effort, when we could be turning Mexico into an asset as a productive, taxpaying state (or states).

    July 1, 2010 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  18. DYLANSDADDY

    Illegal’s cant vote, so there should be no worries about punishing them. Kick them out and let them try again the right way.

    July 1, 2010 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I have a vague recollection of Bush appropriating about 3.6BILLION dollars to build a fence. It was supposed to go around about 670 miles between Mexico and the U.S. with all kinds of do-hickeys to solve this illegal immigration issue. I think it was to be completed in Spring of 2008. Then that got pushed to end of 2009.

    Whatever happened to that "brilliant" investment of 3.6BILLION dollars by the Bush administration? Where did the 3.6BILLION invested come from? Did it come from the same place where he appropriated the TRILLIONS off the books to send our children to die in Iraq?

    I'm just asking.

    July 1, 2010 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  20. Juan

    Two words:, "Illegal Immigrant" votes. That is it in a nutshell–he wants the votes to advance his agenda. Here in NM you can be illegal and possess a NM state driver license. You can vote in our elections due to the fact the polls are not allowed to check your ID. These people should be required to enter the US and comply with the laws of our nation. My parents came here on a green card and worked their butts off to request and study for citizenship. Yep it was a lot harder back in the late 1970's; had to take a written test and answer actual questions from a judge (in english). It is all about the votes–no wonder our country is broke and in a shambles. Stalin must be laughing in his grave. Oh, and I bet CNN will not post this.

    July 1, 2010 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  21. Fair is Fair

    I'll tell you what's behind it – the dems know they're out in November.

    July 1, 2010 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  22. Phil, California

    Marc Rosenblum, a senior policy analyst at Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank: "I think that voters are impatient – especially folks who have a real stake in this issue: immigrants and their families and business that employ them."

    How about the families of US CITIZENS who are being murdered? Gee, wouyldn't you think THEY are the ones who are freakin' 'impatient'???

    So what he says is important here is the VOTES of IMMIGRANTS and 'business that employ them.' another point: lets not be concerned with jailing businesses who hire ILLEGALS! Damn politicians!

    July 1, 2010 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  23. JUDD CLINNOCK

    Obama wants the illegal immigrants converted to be able to vote in the 2012 election – for him of course. He would then garner all the blacks, hispanics, gays and lesbians, union sympathizers and Moveon.org votes, thinking he will be re-elected even though he has lost the independents and the few republicans who voted for him last time. He has also lost many moderate democrats, and he needs those illegals to vote for him next time. Watch for
    Chicago-style shenanigans to get this done.

    July 1, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  24. jp,michigan

    Real reason behind the immigration reform push, VOTES! Obama counts on the Hispanic and African American, to win another 4 years. Well! It ain't going to happen. Obama is a one term President as were many before him. He has angered the majority of American, including Hispanics and African American voters. He has shown one side , who will say and promise anything to get in the White House, then show his true colors once there. Enough is Enough! Time to plan your next gig, preferable in Chicago!

    July 1, 2010 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  25. Willy Brown

    What's behind Obambi immigration reform? UNION BOSSES wanting the cheap labor and collecting/taking dues from those illegal aliens.

    July 1, 2010 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
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