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Frank Sharry on State of the Union: Obama Should Deal Seriously With Immigration

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The Washington Post asked America’s Voice founder and excecutive director Frank Sharry what he thought President Obama should cover in his State of the Union address. From the piece:

The Post asked business leaders, policy experts and others to name an issue that President Obama should include in his Jan. 25 State of the Union address. Below are responses from Maya MacGuineas, Drew Altman, Howard Dean, Frances Beinecke, Robert L. Reynolds, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Frank Sharry, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Jamie Radtke, Ed Rogers, Bob Lehrman and Matthew Dowd.



Executive director of America’s Voice

President Obama should challenge Republicans such as Arizona Sens. John McCain and John Kyl to work with him on immigration reform. Immigration has become the defining issue for Latinos, a fast-growing group of voters who are pivotal in swing states such as Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida. Action on the DREAM Act in late 2010 put Republicans on the defensive and generated a wave of Latino support that helped Democrats hold onto the Senate. Obama, having failed to keep his promise to fight for comprehensive immigration reform early in his presidency, needs more than a drive-by mention near the end of the speech.

Republicans, still in the grip of the party’s hard-liners and probably needing 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to retake the White House, are vulnerable on this issue. Obama should call for either: (A) an approach that combines the “border security first” stance of many Republicans, with triggers to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that most Democrats support; or (B) enactment of a suitable version of the DREAM Act. This will produce a long-overdue bipartisan breakthrough on immigration, or make the issue one that can be used against the GOP in 2012.

Watch President Obama responding to a reporter’s question about the failure to pass immigration reform, stating that the DREAM Act vote was perhaps his biggest disappointment: