Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nothing new in Obama's speech on immigration

Even Leftists saw that

Last night during his State of the Union speech, President Obama spoke, as he has before, about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. He also brought up, if not by name, the Dream Act, long-proposed legislation that would grant conditional legal status to undocumented young people who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 if they attend college or join the military.

“Send me a law that gives then the chance to earn their citizenship,” Obama said. “I will sign it right away.” But by and large, Obama’s statements regarding immigration didn’t draw much excitement. Here are a few snippets of reaction from media and elsewhere.

The immigration portion of the speech was nothing we haven’t heard before, wrote Elise Foley in the Huffington Post: "When President Obama’s immigration policy staffers gathered to help pen the State of the Union Address passage dedicated to their issue, they didn’t have much to work with. Comprehensive immigration reform never came close, and the Dream Act failed. What’s a speechwriter to do?" “I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration,” Obama said in his Tuesday evening speech.

Indeed, he “strongly believe[d] that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration” last year, according to his State of the Union speech.

A CNN opinion piece posted shortly before the speech last night, written by Lanae Erickson of the left-leaning policy think tank Third Way, predicted what might occur when immigration came up: "Count on it. President Obama will devote three sentences to immigration reform in the State of the Union. Two dozen lawmakers will jump to their feet and applaud. One-third of the audience will give an obligatory clap. The rest will sit silently, stifling a yawn. Five years ago, comprehensive immigration reform legislation seemed possible and deeply bipartisan. Now it seems as unlikely and distant as President Bush’s mission to Mars."

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein didn’t get specifically into immigration in his Wonkblog today, but had this to say: "Last night’s State of the Union will not take a place alongside Barack Obama’s 2008 speech on race. It won’t be mentioned in the same breath as his 2004 speech in Boston. It didn’t even have the intellectual scope and narrative sweep of his 2011 speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. Rather, it was a laundry list of policies, along the lines of the State of the Unions Bill Clinton delivered late in his presidency. Which makes perfect sense. Obama is staffed by much of the same team that wrote those State of the Unions."

And more along these lines, in different words, from Victor Landa at News Taco: "He can afford to play from his base because the opposition has left the filed open. So he reiterated many of the Democratic points and positions that he’s been hitting for three years (immigration, homeowner relief, student loans, etc…), and strike a note toward the center by saying what the American citizenry has been saying all along — Washington is broken.

How did some of those young immigrants who stand to benefit from the legislation Obama was talking about react? Not with much enthusiasm, either. Obama’s track record has included record deportations and tightened interior enforcement, which among other things has eroded his Latino support as the November election gets closer. An undocumented student activist group called Dream Team Los Angeles had this line in its statement today: "The President must not blame “election year politics” for four years of inaction and political unwillingness to stand with the immigrant community that helped elect him."

Angelica Salas, director of the advocacy group Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, reacted similarly in another statement: "Although conciliatory in words, the President’s immigration policy remains at a stand-still while the massive and ever-expanding deportation machine is well oiled and humming along. The reform he promised to see through during the first year of his first term is now given short shrift as he outlines his priorities during its last."

At the same time, the president did set himself aside from his Republican competitors, whose own tone on immigration has not been winning over disenchanted Obama supporters. Candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to veto the Dream Act and most recently talked about encouraging “self-deportation,” while his chief rival Newt Gingrich, initially more lenient and favoring a path to citizenship for some, has shifted positions during the campaign. Gingrich most recently said he’d favor a military version of the Dream Act, without a college component.


Gingrich mocks Romney’s ‘self-deportation’ plan for illegal immigrants

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich on Wednesday mocked as an “Obama-level fantasy” Mitt Romney’s plan to deal with illegal immigration by encouraging “self-deportation.”

Gingrich made the comment as he began a day of outreach to Florida’s Hispanic voters with an extensive interview on Spanish-language television and a speech at Florida International University in which he called for a more a forceful U.S. role in ending communist rule in Cuba, as well as an overhaul of U.S. economic policies toward all of Latin America.

In an interview with the Univision network, Gingrich said it was unrealistic for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States to voluntarily leave the country, as Romney, his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, suggested in a debate Monday ahead of Florida’s Jan. 31 primary. Gingrich, who upset the GOP race by decisively winning Saturday’s South Carolina primary, also used a question about the immigration issue to get in a few digs at the former Massachusetts governor over his wealth and tax returns.

“You have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic $20 million income for no work to have some fantasy this far from reality,” Gingrich told Univision interviewer Jorge Ramos. “For Romney to believe that somebody’s grandmother is going to be so cut off that she is going to self-deport, I mean this is an Obama-level fantasy.”

In a debate Monday, a moderator asked Romney how he would get illegal immigrants to go home without rounding up and deporting them, which he has said he does not want to do.

“Well, the answer is self-deportation,” he responded. He said this would happen when “people decide that they could do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”

After Gingrich ridiculed the idea Wednesday, Romney’s campaign highlighted previous comments by Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, who said the vast majority of illegal immigrants would likely “self-deport” under Gringrich’s immigration plan, which Hammond said would allow only a small percentage of them to remain in the United States.

Romney himself on Wednesday accused Gingrich of pandering to Florida’s Latino voters by mocking Romney’s stance on immigration. “Unfortunately for him, these are things he’s already spoken out about and he’s spoken out about in favor,” Romney said, referring to an earlier comment from Gingrich’s spokesman that also suggested that immigrants might “self-deport.”

“Now, I recognized that that it’s very tempting to come into an audience like this and to pander to the audience and say what you hope people will want to hear,” Romney told Univision’s Ramos. “But frankly, I think that’s unbecoming of a presidential candidate.”

The two campaigns also sparred Wednesday over a Gingrich political ad that called Romney “anti-immigrant.” The ad, which aired on Spanish-language radio, was denounced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a tea party favorite who has remained neutral in the primary campaign.


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