President, Congress must tackle immigration reform
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, January 27, 2013
1/27/13 at 7:01 AM
President Barack Obama has four more years to serve. That gives him four more years to get things done.
Actually, it's more like three years because the last year will focus on who will be the new president. And it's probably more like two years, unless he happens to have a highly unlikely historic takeover of the House of Representatives by Democrats in the 2014 midterm election, assuming, of course, that the Democrats can hold the Senate.
So, in all likelihood, he has 12 months, maybe 18, to get a lot of things done.
He already has begun the battle over gun control. But he must not let that issue consume his presidency. There is more on his plate. One thing being immigration reform.
During his first run for the office in 2008, he promised to tackle immigration reform. He didn't. I'll cut him some slack being as how the economy was in such horrible condition and it took a great deal of his time, effort and much controversy to try to turn it around.
This, however, is his last chance and probably the country's best chance to right some wrongs.
Obama carried the Hispanic vote in his first and second elections by overwhelming margins. The fast-growing Hispanic population has given Democrats visions of making comebacks in some former Democratic strongholds that have become, over time, citadels for Republicans.
Some Democrats actually predict that Texas could return to the blue column by as early as 2016. Imagine that. Of all the states that have immigration problems, Texas and its leaders, including former Republican presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry, have embraced its Hispanic population much more warmly than, say, Oklahoma, Arizona or Alabama.
Are the Republicans listening?
They are on the verge of losing, for decades, the fastest-growing immigrant population in the country.
After President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he famously said: "We have lost the South for a generation."
The South, including Oklahoma, had been faithful Democratic voters since the Civil War. The southeast portion of Oklahoma was known as Little Dixie. Before 1964, however, the Democrats resisted integration and civil rights and voting rights for African-Americans. Johnson, of Texas, became the last Democratic presidential candidate for whom Oklahoma, and much of the South, voted.
If the Republicans have any sense of history, they will understand what they face. And if not for moral reasons, then for purely selfish political reasons, they will get on board with immigration reform. Or risk losing the Hispanic vote for a generation or more.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell must convince their colleagues of the importance of immigration reform. There will be that hardliner few - likely including First District Rep. Jim Bridenstine and Second District Rep. Markwayne Mullin - who will oppose immigration reform of any kind. They know the danger of the tea party and other anti-immigration forces and the power they wield in the primary elections. Bridenstine, Mullin and many like them in the House will have to choose between what is right and what is politically expedient.
Obama has the upper hand. If his immigration reform proposal gets through Congress, he will get most of the credit - and he ought to. If, however, Republicans play their cards well, they can show bipartisanship on the issue and work with the president. That way the GOP can lay claim, at least partly, to any reform measure.
From the purely political point of view, that could be huge for the GOP. Hispanics are not sheep. They are not all liberals. They think independently. If they believe they have been treated fairly by both parties they are more likely to split their votes. The Republicans might not lose the entire Hispanic vote if they do the right thing.
I'd like to believe that members of Congress would support fair immigration simply because it is the right and Christian thing to do. I am, however, not that naive.
Any thinking person knows that we have an immigration problem in the United States. One that must be resolved. But allowing states to pass a patchwork of unconstitutional and onerous laws designed to punish not only those who come here illegally but Hispanic-Americans whose families have lived here for decades is not the answer.
Obama signed an executive order last year that gave hope to thousands of Hispanic children who, by no choice of their own, were brought here by their parents when they were young. During their lives they have become as American as anyone else. Now, they have the chance to continue to live, work and go to school in this country without the fear of being deported to a country they don't know, if they meet certain fair requirements.
David Plouffe, a senior adviser to Obama, told the New York Times: "We clearly have this moment where we can get immigration done. If we don't, then shame on us."
The president will deliver his State of the Union to Congress on Feb. 12. He must place immigration reform high on his priority list. The Republicans would be wise to work with him.
If not, then shame on them.
Original Print Headline: Seize the moment
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332
President Barack Obama waves after his inaugural speech in Washington Monday. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/Associated Press