July 1st, 2010
08:13 AM ET
8 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. Phil, California

    "President Obama meets with members of the Congressional
    Hispanic Caucus at the White House on June 29"....Note that's the caption under the pic of the main news story. Gee, Mr President, how about having a meeting with a cross of all ethnic lines – notice he meetes with all 'hispanics' – those with most connection with the problems we have with illegals. A lot they want to see immigration huh?

    See the article above: The hispanic community rate immigration really low: "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." Sure, the more support for illegals already here, the more they attract more.

    Thank you US gov't for doing absolutely NOTHING about this serious problem. They just can't get 'voting constituents' out of their heads can they? Can ruin chances of re-election by ignoring the real life and death issues associated with this mess....and US sovereignty.

    July 1, 2010 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  2. JP

    Whats behind Obama's immigration push, amnesty=votes for Obama. Thats all he cares about. If American tax payers are screwed by having to support millions and millions of people most of which are undereducated, poor, and don't speak english Obama doesn't care as long as they vote for him. How many billions will it cost taxpayers to provide Obamacare to 11 millions illegals so Obama can get the hispanic vote.

    July 1, 2010 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  3. The Real Me

    Too little, too late. It will be toothless.

    July 1, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  4. Sniffit

    This should be amusing.

    Defending AZ's Constitutionally pre-empted profiling nonsense = GOPers claiming Obama and the Dems aren't doing enough and are total failures on border control.

    Obama and the Dems push to do something on immigration and border control = GOPers claiming it's all just politically motivated and an attempt to give amnesty to every illegal alien in a bid to buy their votes...not to mention CongressGOPers telling Obama "now is not the right time."

    When is the "right time" GOPers? Is it only the "right time" AFTER you've attempted to cash in on spreading misinformation and resentment towards the Dems that the borders are unsecured and that the federal gov't is doing nothing? Doesn't matter if your statements above are self-contradictory..."say anything," right?

    July 1, 2010 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  5. John N Florida

    Depending on the source, it's estimated that there 11 to 12 million illegals in the US right now.
    2 points: we tried Amnesty in 1986. It was promised that Simpson-Mazzoli was a 'one-off'. President Reagan and Senator Kennedy BOTH promised the nation that this was a one time, one shot deal.
    I'm holding this congress and administration to that promise.

    Second, WHAT about these illegals is so SPECIAL?
    What reason can anyone give why those who have broken the law to come here illegally should be placed ahead of those who are waiting in their home countries, going through the paperwork and waiting periods, for their chance to come here legally?
    IF congress breaks their word and allows Amnesty for these 12 million, then we should also insist that ALL legal immigration be STOPPED for a period of 18 years. That's how long it would take to legally immigrate that many people. The Immigration Act of 1990 sets an annual ceiling of 700,000 immigrants per year to enter the U.S. for the next three years and an annual ceiling of 675,000 per year for every year after.

    July 1, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  6. USN

    He needs votes, he;s bought all the leagle ones he can find .

    July 1, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  7. gt

    obama is about change,,,,amnesty is just around the corner with millions of grateful voters,,,,but the elections are only 5 months away,,,,

    July 1, 2010 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  8. This land is IMMIGRANTS LAND

    The problem is that illegal people don't pay taxes...SOLUTION – make them legal and tax their income – use the revenue for public purposes like health care and education...everyone is happy except for the bigots...who cares about the bigots – they are like Dodos and will be extinct pretty soon...

    July 1, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  9. Bob in PA

    We have a problem with people illegally entering our country and BOzo the man-child says we need to reform immigration. Remember "it's the economy stupid ", well "it’s illegal entry stupid, not immigration".".

    July 1, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  10. Scottish Mama

    If people want at least something past they will think twice maybe before they vote to cripple the dems. Dont cry about the situations were in (independents) and then vote rep now. Stick to your Obama guns for 8 years and see what changes we can get.
    God knows we need a hero!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 1, 2010 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  11. FYI

    Obviously, this is a politically risky move. It allows Republicans to demagogue the issue, something they do well. Most people do not know that illegal immigration has been going down since the U.S. economy soured in 2008. There are fewer low-paying jobs waiting for them across the border.

    On the other hand, the Obama Administration has been deporting illegal aliens in record number. In 2009, the United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) deported a 387,790 illegal immigrants, an all-time record, and that number will go up to 400,000 this year. In other words, the Obama Administration is outdoing Bush and all previous administrations in deporting illegal immigrants.

    July 1, 2010 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  12. Michael Armstrong Sr. Tx.

    What ever the president say's it will more then likely anger the people in the South the president is more for illegals then against it's sad that we allow gov. Richardson to hand out drivers license to people that are illegal and breaking our laws by being here and and trying to prosecute Arizona for trying to enforce an already exsisting law New Mexico is the one breaking the law not Arizona .

    July 1, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  13. t22

    Several million new Democrats, that's what behind it.

    July 1, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  14. ST

    I laugh loudly watching GOP putting themselves in a box. "W" walked a fine line and didn't touch the issue as he was aware of its sensitivity.
    Now there is no any choice for them. Either swallowing a bitter pill and deal with the issue, or ignoring it, the outcome will not be in their favour. They could not had cheered when Ms. Brewer opened the Arizona Pandora Box which is now going to drive the Immigration Reform into action.

    July 1, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  15. snow

    BULL, what is important right now is securing our border, then we can talk about the rest after that is done. The demorats want to buy the elections by making illegals citizens ahead of immigrants that have been in the pipeline for years.

    July 1, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  16. Navybill

    Let's make this simple for Team Obama. It's not immigration, but illegal immigration. Hold the lawbreakers accountable and, by all means, reform immigration. Most of us good “folks”, as you call us, understand fully that "immigration reform" is Obamaspeak for "amnesty". We are the citizens you swore to protect, put us first not the illegals. Simple enough???

    July 1, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  17. LIP

    "People that have a stake in this...illegal immigrants/felons and their employers/felons", and what about the legal Americans that are out of jobs...something like 18% of Americans are unemployed and they (illegal immigrants/felons) have our jobs.
    Both Democrats and Republicans have to come together to represent their constituents and do what is right for the first time and stop thinking about their damn votes they could get from the Hispanic population.
    Enough is enough and we, the legal population, is getting sick and tired of this game of dodge ball.

    July 1, 2010 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  18. Get A Grip

    "What's behind Obama's immigration reform push?"

    Answer.....MORE VOTES FOR OBAMA. That's all he cares about, besides golfing, campaigning, parties, vacations.....oh yeah, and crushing this country.

    July 1, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  19. Gale

    I don't understand why it is so difficult. Other countries all have immigration policies. Why do we have to support and allow these people in, when they do not support the United States.

    July 1, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  20. LPB

    So, since illegal immigrants are "impatient" for the administration to offer them amnesty, the White House will hurry and push through "reform". Nice.

    The Democrats never explain why "reform" is so necessary, just like they never explain why they can't be bothered to enforce the existing laws.

    July 1, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  21. Nothing is too big to fail

    Old trick. Whenever the corrupt politicians get in trouble they push a devicive topic. This time it's illegal immigration. Sometimes it's flag burning or gay marriage. It's always an attempt to divide the public so they don't join together and throw out all the bums at once.

    July 1, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  22. MatthewDetroit

    Pathetic that the President and the Democrats are pandering to illegals for votes.

    Illegals are Illegals. They should not be allowed to stay in this country.

    You should not be able to jump a line and then have congress say it is okay.

    Illegals are ruining AMerica and driving us deeper into debt.
    California is a great example of a broken state.

    July 1, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  23. Dean

    Obama – you need to Google "Operation wetback" to learn how to handle the immigration and unemployment problems. This is nothing new.

    July 1, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  24. Slider

    What's behind Obama's immigration reform push?


    You're an idiot, Hornick.


    There are many, many latinos who recognize the democrat party for the government that they are trying to get away from.

    Apparently, the democrat party hasn't learned the lessons of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Democrats didn't make significant gains from either episodes.

    July 1, 2010 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  25. doug

    Obama want to nationalize all the illegals because now all the good hearted Americans know he is evil.

    July 1, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
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