Even as Obama is focusing on gun control and the debt ceiling, the New York Times reports that he’s preparing to launch his major push for immigration reform in the first months of his second term:
President Obama plans to push Congress to move quickly in the coming months on an ambitious overhaul of the immigration system that would include a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, senior administration officials and lawmakers said last week.
Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats will propose the changes in one comprehensive bill, the officials said, resisting efforts by some Republicans to break the overhaul into smaller pieces — separately addressing young illegal immigrants, migrant farmworkers or highly skilled foreigners — which might be easier for reluctant members of their party to accept.
The president and Democrats will also oppose measures that do not allow immigrants who gain legal status to become American citizens one day, the officials said.
According to the Times, administration officials are already crafting proposals, since they think it will be easier to move this forward at the beginning of Obama’s second term. There are few details on the White House plan so far, but the must-haves reportedly include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country; implementing a national citizenship-verification system for employers similar to E-Verify; and establishing a guest-worker program.
Based on the scant details, Obama’s proposal doesn’t sound far off from Senator Marco Rubio’s, which is also still in the works. The biggest difference seems to be that Obama wants his reform passed as one single piece of legislation, while Rubio wants to introduce his in parts.
These comprehensive bills are Obama’s M.O. It makes it easier for him to include controversial proposals, since GOP objections to a portion of the bill will be portrayed as objections to the entire bill. It’s also a good way to obscure the debate–demonize your opponents for opposing immigration reform instead of engaging them on the specific measure they’re criticizing.
There are signs the GOP is serious about tackling immigration reform, including Paul Ryan’s endorsement of Rubio’s plan, and a bipartisan group of senators called the “Gang of Eight” that’s busy on its own bill. We’ll see if Obama uses this as an opportunity to actually work with Republicans toward a reasonable solution, or if he just sees it as another chance to score political points.