President Obama’s immigration reform speech brings more partisanship

In a speech touting the need for immigration reform, President Obama offered more of the same polarizing rhetoric typical of the contemporary Washington environment.  Ultimately, he blames Republicans if the reform effort fails, even though some Democrats aren’t on board. 

To be fair, Obama did praise President George W. Bush for attempting to tackle immigration reform.  Additionally, he praised the Republicans who formerly backed some sort of reform last year.  But now, the president is shaking his head at what he perceives as Republican back-peddling on the controversial issue. 

     “Just a few years ago, when I was a senator, we forged a bipartisan coalition in favor of comprehensive reform. Under the leadership of Senator Kennedy, who had been a longtime champion of immigration reform, and Senator John McCain, we worked across the aisle to help pass a bipartisan bill through the Senate. But that effort eventually came apart. And now, under the pressures of partisanship and election-year politics, many of the 11 Republican senators who voted for reform in the past have now backed away from their previous support,” he said. 

Just like he recently characterized Republicans as wanting to take the economy backwards, he essentially did the same with immigration.  Meanwhile, he painted his own party as the party of progress and beyond gridlock. 

     “I’m ready to move forward; the majority of Democrats are ready to move forward; and I believe the majority of Americans are ready to move forward. But the fact is, without bipartisan support, as we had just a few years ago, we cannot solve this problem. Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality,” he said. 

The President neglected to call hesitant members of his own party to jump on board the reform boat.  After all, Democratic support for immigration reform is certainly not unanimous. There are still some who are hesitant in supporting a measure. 

So, while Obama paints his Democratic Party as the only party wanting progress on the issue, the hard numbers show this not to be the case.  It is also quite strange that Obama poked his Republican opponents with partisan rhetoric considering that he also seemed to look down on such a tactic in the very same speech. 

     “Unfortunately, reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling -– and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics.” 

Nevertheless, President Obama still condemned the Republican-approved Arizona immigration law.  While he acknowledged the Arizona approach as “understandable,” he still labeled it as “ill-conceived,” “divisive,” and “difficult.” The administration still plans to challenge the law. 

And for a president who says that he wants to end political polarization, he must find a way to explain why he knows the immigration situation of Arizona better than a majority of the citizens who approve the new law.