Commentary Magazine


Obama Tips His Hand: No Reform, Just an Issue

The Obama team would rather fuel racial tensions than pass comprehensive immigration reform. That is the upshot of this Washington Post report:

West Wing strategists argue that the president’s call for legislation that acknowledges the role of immigrants and goes beyond punishing undocumented workers will help cement a permanent political relationship between Democrats and Hispanics — much as civil rights and voting rights legislation did for the party and African Americans in the 1960s.

As a result, although the president is unlikely to press for comprehensive immigration reform this year, he has urged his allies to keep up the pressure on Republican lawmakers. [emphasis added]

Because, you see, if he passed a bill, the issue would go away. And then Hispanics wouldn’t be mad at the GOP. It is quite a buried lede. The story here is not as the Post‘s headline reads: “Republican immigration position likely to alienate Latinos, Obama officials say.” It is, instead, “Obama Wants Divisive Racial Issue, Not Immigration Reform.”

Hispanic activists actually wanted the president to work on comprehensive immigration reform. But during a White House meeting, they learned that’s not the game here:

The activists came away from their presidential audience still convinced that he could be doing more to push the issue. But their discussion with Obama — and a lengthier one with adviser Valerie Jarrett after he left the room — made one thing clear to them: The White House plans to use the immigration debate to punish the GOP and aggressively seek the Latino vote in 2012.

“The president fundamentally understands that this is about the longer term,” said Janet Murguia, president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, who attended the White House meeting. “This issue goes deeper than any list of needs. Your answer on this question will reveal to us whether you do or don’t understand our community.”

“Deeper” than the need to address immigration reform is the need to keep Democrats in power. It seems Obama is not the only one playing a dangerous game of racial politics.