Recently speaking before a key Hispanic audience through the Spanish television network Univision, The Hill newspaper blog reports that First Lady Michelle Obama placed blame for her husband’s inability to pass immigration reform on the Republican Party, saying that legislation like the DREAM Act has been a top item on her husband’s agenda. She is calling on the Hispanic community to hold Republicans accountable for their current immigration stance.
“So I urge the Latino community, he needs help, he’s got to have Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are going to step up […]. If a sound immigration bill gets put on the President’s desk, he is going to sign it. But it’s got to get through Congress. He can’t do it alone,” the First Lady said regarding her husband according to The Hill.
While the timing of the First Lady’s remarks on the immigration issue may seem a bit of an oddity in the midst of current budget talks on Capitol Hill, they come just as a recent poll indicates that immigration reform is back at the top of the legislative priority of Hispanic voters sampled in the survey.
The venue of her remarks isn’t certainly out of place either for obvious reasons. Not only would much of the Univision audience be the most emotionally connected to the issue, but the grassroots community that supported the Dream Act was active in organizing demonstrations across the nation.
However, as long as the misconception continues to be passed on to the Hispanic community that Republicans are mainly responsible for the Dream Act’s mighty fall, this leaves yet another occasion for laying out the facts on the issue.
Near the beginning of his presidency, President Obama promised that by the end of his first year in office that he would have a comprehensive immigration reform bill. While political promises come with the invisible asterisked disclaimer that they aren’t always meant to be kept, such broken promises risk the erosion of the constituency’s support to whom they’re promised. The president carries this very risk with him in his relationship with the Hispanic community.
Despite the priority that Mr. and Mrs. Obama claim that he placed on comprehensive immigration reform, legislation was brought to the floor after the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and in the very last moments of the 111th lame duck congressional session.
Even in the lame duck session of Congress, Democrats still retained a majority in both Houses of Congress and fell six Democratic votes short of passing the Dream Act. To be fair to the President, he did sue the state of Arizona over its controversial immigration law that empowered local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of suspected individuals. However, the failure to rally his party’s majority in the Senate will continue to haunt President Obama throughout the rest of his term, especially as more states are considering an Arizona-style immigration law.
There’s also the notion that he’s sending mixed messages to the Hispanic community, calling for the passing of comprehensive immigration reform that won’t separate families. Simultaneously, enforcement has toughened under Obama, at both local businesses and along the border.
The administration’s delay on immigration reform has bought time for more local communities, like Republican-leaning cities here in California and other numerous states as a whole, to take enforcement procedures into their own hands. In essence, states’ recent approaches are providing the testing grounds for whether enforcing existing laws are more effective than comprehensive reform.
If the President desires the typically loyal Hispanic constituency to take him seriously on his talk about immigration reform, it would be a good idea if he elucidated his currently convoluted stance and actions on the issue.