Obama: We’ll tackle immigration in 2010

posted at 10:55 am on August 11, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

At first, the White House announcement that they would push for immigration reform in 2010 seemed very counterintuitive.  After all, Barack Obama’s health-care reform package has stalled in Congress and split his party along ideological grounds, and unified the Republicans against the White House.  Obama also has his cap-and-trade package stuck between the House and Senate, which has split the Democrats on regional as well as ideological grounds and probably won’t get through the Senate this year, if at all.  Isn’t it crazy to follow those with another highly divisive political issue, certain to raise voices and blood pressure in town halls across America?

Sure — crazy like a fox:

President Obama, attending a North American summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, said Monday that his administration will pursue a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system this year but that no action on legislation will happen before 2010.

Wrapping up the two-day meeting, Obama said that there needs to be “a pathway to citizenship” for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States, and that the system must be reworked to avoid tensions with Mexico. Without it, he said, Mexicans will keep crossing the border in dangerous ways and employers will continue exploiting workers.

“We can create a system in which you have . . . an orderly process for people to come in, but we’re also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don’t have to live in the shadows,” Obama said during an hour-long news conference at the Cabañas Cultural Center in downtown Guadalajara. “Am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No. This is going to be difficult.”

The president said he expects draft legislation and sponsors by the end of the year, but no action until 2010 because of more pressing issues, including health-care reform, energy legislation and financial regulatory changes.

In a way, I have to admire the genius of this strategy.  In fact, it might be exactly what Obama and the Democrats need in 2010 to rescue themselves from what looks like a disastrous midterm election, although I doubt it will be enough.

Until now, Obama has played on his own field, in a sense.  Imposing government control on the health-care and energy industries always had more risk for Democrats and opportunities for unity for the GOP.  Obama clearly underestimated how badly ObamaCare would split his party, and I’d bet he got surprised by the Senate’s decision to table cap-and-trade this summer as well.  Still, Obama had to know that these issues would create at least some ideological and regional tensions (especially the latter on cap-and-trade) before launching full-court presses to get both passed quickly this summer.

If Obama takes up immigration reform in 2010, he turns the tables.  While the Democrats don’t exactly have unity on this issue — there will be some Blue Dog and regional resistance to any amnesty program — it splits the GOP as badly as cap-and-trade splits the Democrats.  In 2006 and 2007, Democrats had a much more unified approach to the issue, while Republicans fractured.  If Obama can recreate 2006-7 in 2010, he can sap the enthusiasm for Republican election efforts that have built in 2009, solidify his hold on the Hispanic vote, and create enough disarray to hold majorities in both chambers of Congress.  Whether a bill actually gets passed will be immaterial, or at least secondary, to the electoral strategy.

Can Republicans keep from splitting on immigration reform?  One strategy would be to keep ObamaCare and cap-and-trade from passing until 2010.  Obama would either have to abandon one or both of those to get to immigration reform, or he would have to let immigration reform slip to 2011 or beyond.  Another strategy, made easier with George Bush out of the way, would be to insist on a borders-first approach that delays the consideration of tougher questions about how to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.  In 2007, even the reform advocates in the GOP had to agree to that approach in the face of withering criticism not unlike what we see today from the ObamaCare debate.  Some Democrats, especially the Blue Dogs worrying about their chances for re-election, will want to follow that same approach, which would make moving anything else significant in 2010 almost impossible.

In the end, the Blue Dogs will not follow where Obama leads, which is why this strategy — while intriguing and bold — will probably fail.  Most of them represent conservative districts, and most of them had to pledge to oppose amnesty in order to replace Republicans who had represented the districts before 2006.  They can’t vote for amnesty in the summer and expect to return to Washington in the winter.  But even if it stalls, the infighting among Republicans could do enough damage to keep the House in Democratic hands for another session.

Update: Jim Geraghty: “Boy, if you’re a Blue Dog, you must just love this administration right about now.”


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If we are going to do immigration reform, I want more ASIAN immigrants.

ThackerAgency on August 11, 2009 at 11:39 AM

I’m all for that.

My mother was an Asian Immigrant. She’s done nothing but work hard and provide for her children.

Chaz706 on August 11, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Yeah, the libs are good about giving threats to women. But, I doubt that he would meet this old man face to face in downtown Schulenburg.

Johan Klaus on August 11, 2009 at 3:03 PM

Like I told him, he is a coward that hides on the internet. He did not bother me. It just shows his lack of character.

TXMomof3 on August 11, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Asians…

The ‘Non-minority’ minority.

Chaz706 on August 11, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Red meat for ‘conservatives’ to distract them from healthcare. Don’t engage on this now. We’ll cross this bridge during 2010. Right now focus on shoving obamacare up his nether regions.

Fighton03 on August 11, 2009 at 3:32 PM

We can create a system in which you have . . . an orderly process for people to come in, but we’re also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don’t have to live in the shadows

We already said no to this and will do so again. Each time the electorate defeats government stupidity it becomes more powerful.

The libturds do not like the elctorate being able to ahem communicate with them, but they need to suck it up. Theres no going back to that nice cozy insulated beltway to escape.

dogsoldier on August 11, 2009 at 3:38 PM

And all those companies require applicants to speak Spanish?

Doughboy on August 11, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Well, put it this way; when many interviewers see her they seem receptive to hiring her. Then, they ask her if she can speak Spanish and when she says no, they say that they will get in touch with her, which has thus far not happened.

Johan Klaus on August 11, 2009 at 3:49 PM

This man is a glutton for punishment. Whatever the disagreements in the Republican party over immigration might have been, Obama will do a better job of uniting them {in opposition} than anyone else could. Besides, I don’t think most people really want to deal with this right now.

Terrye on August 11, 2009 at 4:08 PM

I’m willing to bet that McCain will take Obama’s side on the comprehensive immigration reform.

And on all the hype to secure the open borders, Obama is such a wonderful family man with his own ties to international identities, his Berlin campaign speech is still reverberating through all the walls coming down around the world.

maverick muse on August 11, 2009 at 4:24 PM

The GOP, conservatives, libertarians need to emphasize complete security of the border first, and confirmation that it is secure for at least a six-month period.

Only then would should we consider what to do about the 12 million here illegally.

1) Secure borders.
2) 6-month confirmation period they are secure.
3) Discussions on the 12 million illegals can commence only after 1) and 2).

This is what we should shoot for in 2010.

And, in a totally UNITED fashion due to the fanatical attempts by the Soros/Nutroot/MSM/DemParty/Obama to drive a wedge in the ranks of the GOP.

Sapwolf on August 11, 2009 at 4:56 PM

Can Obama keep the rank-and-file union members together in 2010 if he goes for immigration reform. While the leaders will be with him, it’s hard to see how he’s going to keep the blue collar voters if they think Obama’s reforms might cost them either their jobs or force them to accept lower salaries down the line.

jon1979 on August 11, 2009 at 11:02 AM

And if Obama tries to make citizens of illegals in 2010, the Cuda sweeps in and makes inroads to the Reagan Dems.

The GOP needs to bang home the fact that illegal immigration puts pressure on union workers.

Sapwolf on August 11, 2009 at 5:01 PM

The GOP isn’t going to do Jack. What if McCain had been wishy-washy on the immigration issue…oh, never mind.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 11, 2009 at 6:26 PM

The Won’s cannier than this. It makes no sense to try to ramrod a third highly-unpopular initiative in a row (Cap’n’Trade, ObamaCare, Amnesty), particularly when it’s almost guaranteed to fail. Most of the country opposed Bush on immigration because it too-closely resembled amnesty in the first place. Doing it in 2010, when he’ll almost-certainly have to go “borders first” to keep the Blue-Dogs on the leash, is nuts. He might as well announce his intention not to run in 2016 if he tries, because 3 major policy initiatives in a row bouncing off the public and Congress when it gets to crunch time practically screams “lame duck.”

This is a worm. Figure on any immigration reform from the left in 2010 to look like border control, maybe even fence-funneling through border cities to at least look like we’re keeping an eye on who comes to visit. Plan too though that there’ll be a hook in the bill somewhere, like what someone tried to do with burying elements of “card-check” into the ObamaCare bill.

Blacksmith on August 11, 2009 at 6:59 PM

You’re missing the key component, Ed…

…unemployment.

Saltysam on August 11, 2009 at 10:42 PM

Don’t forget Obama is trying to rig the census via Acorn to make it so we can’t retake the House and Senate after 2010. If they succeed we’ll see a country that does not reflect reality.

scotash on August 12, 2009 at 12:41 AM

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