Published on January 21st, 2013 | by Garrett Poorman, Marketing Editor0
New hope for immigration reform
Several times on the campaign trail in 2008, then candidate Barack Obama made a commitment to immigration reform that the Hispanic community has referred to as “the promise” ever since. His commitment was to present a comprehensive immigration reform plan to congress by the end of his first year as president. Five years later, that promise remains unfulfilled.
This lack of leadership has been one of the biggest disappointments of the Obama presidency to this point. With more than 11 million illegal immigrants currently living within our borders, immigration is an issue we can’t afford to ignore.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), deportations reached an all-time high of 409,849 in 2012. As long as no legislative action is being pushed by the White House, Obama will continue to be thought of as Deporter-in-Chief instead of Reformer-in-Chief.
Rumors are now circulating that the Obama administration’s next focus (after gun control) will be on immigration reform. This may be partly due to the fact that Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has already gone public with an immigration proposal of his own.
Though he hasn’t yet crafted them into legislation, the 41 year old son of Cuban exiles and Tea Party favorite went to the media with his ideas of reform by holding a press meeting in New York in early January.
His proposals are eerily similar to those presented in a May 2011 White House policy briefing dealing with the same issue. Both include stricter workplace enforcement through the E-Verify system, encouraging more legal immigration, a guest worker program that would allow more temporary visas to those with high levels of technical skills, and a possible path to citizenship for those who were brought here illegally when they were minors.
The major difference between these two programs is that Rubio wants to attempt to get the policies passed through a series of bills and all indicators point toward the Obama administration wanting one comprehensive package similar to what Obamacare was for healthcare. The other minor difference is that Obama wants a 13 year process for those already here seeking citizenship and Rubio has yet to specific how long his proposed process would take.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the immigration reform storyline so far has been that despite this lack of important detail, Paul Ryan endorsed Rubio’s plan through a Facebook post on January 14th after several private meetings with the Senator. The former Romney running mate praised, “Rubio is exactly right on the need to fix our broken immigration system.”
Ryan and Rubio are both likely to be leading contenders in the 2016 Republican primary race. Their initial unity on an often divisive issue for the GOP may signal a new direction for the party that only got 27% of the Latino vote in the last presidential election according to the Pew Research Center.
The political reality that conservatives must face is that they underestimated the Latino vote in 2012, and Mitt Romney’s “Self-Deportation” gaffe may have been more damning than Karl Rove or any other political strategist from the right could have anticipated. It’s obvious that the Hispanic population, the largest growing demographic in America, is a must-win for the future of the Republican Party.
That being said, this is ultimately bigger than politics. The naked truth is that we’ve failed to develop any meaningful new policy to deal with our immigration situation. “The promise” remains unfulfilled. For millions of undocumented immigrants, many of whom came here by their choice of their parents and not by their own free will, that means living day to day in constant fear of being deported to a crime-ridden country they have no recollection of.
It is because of this harsh reality that it’s almost inevitable that immigration will be addressed by congress at some point this year. The passing of comprehensive reform measures would mean that the Hispanic community gets what it has been due for a long time: hope for a better tomorrow.