Obama would create a freeway to citizenship from day one. That’s a poison pill for Republicans. Scrapping the guest worker program would also alienate Republicans, the business community, and those conservatives who regard it correctly as an alternative to illegal border-crossing.
Obama didn’t talk about guest workers in his speech. But Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, was sitting in front of him in Las Vegas when he spoke. Organized labor has long opposed the program and was instrumental in killing it in the 1960s.
The president’s motives are suspicious. In 2007, he backed a bipartisan bill, while voting for amendments certain to scare off Republicans. One was to kill the guest worker provision after five years. It passed by one vote. It wasn’t the only reason the bill ultimately died, but it was a factor.
Now Obama is demanding immigration reform be speeded up or he’ll unleash his own proposal. Coming from a president who promised to tackle immigration in his first year, then waited until after his reelection, this requires political moxie. He has plenty of that. Being accused of hypocrisy won’t faze him either.