Today, the above-the-fold headline in the Washington Post reads: “Obama prioritizing immigrant issues” (which matters because many people here still get the Post delivered). The headline of the online version of the article is: “White House pushes forward on immigration ahead of bigger reform fight.” There is a new conventional wisdom for immigration reform, and the Obama administration has learned that when it comes to this issue, good policy is also good politics.
The Obama administration’s decision this week to ease visa requirements for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants represents its latest move to reshape immigration through executive action, even as the White House gears up for an uncertain political fight over a far-more-sweeping legislative package in the months ahead.
Immigration advocates on Thursday hailed a rule change at the Department of Homeland Security that would make it easier for many undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States as they seek permanent residency, saying it will improve the lives of relatives who could have been separated for years without the changes.
Our Executive Director, Frank Sharry, explained the new politics of immigration:
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, which promotes immigration reform, said the administration’s decision to begin implementing immigration changes last year marked a “turning point.” Obama had appeared to give up on the issue after Republicans gained control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections, and many White House aides were “scared to death” about reviving the topic last year, he said.
The moves “not only rallied Latinos and progressives but won the favor of swing voters and threw Republicans on the defensive,” Sharry said. “It was such a turning point last year that it has turned the old conventional wisdom on its head. All of a sudden Obama was getting kudos for the political moves.”
The new politics of immigration will be put to the test over the next few months as we push for legislation that provides a clear path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans. That’s what President Obama’s plan is–and should be:
Still, administration officials emphasize that such administrative actions are not intended as a substitute for broader legislation, which would be aimed at providing a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers.
“At the end of the day, those are just crumbs,” [Center for American Progress' Angela] Kelley said of the executive moves.
Citizenship is the goal. The American people want it. Democrats promised it. And Republicans need it.