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Obama and Biden: Immigration to Be Priority Issue in Second Obama Term

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President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are making it clear that, after the immediate post-election psu to deal with the impending fiscal cliff, immigration reform is at the top of their second-term agenda.

In recent interviews with both English- and Spanish-language media outlets, both members of the Democratic ticket predicted that an Obama/Biden victory would be made possible by heavy Latino turnout and overwhelming Latino support for Democrats, leading to Republican soul-searching and a renewed GOP willingness to address and pass immigration reform.  Let’s hope that it’s true—and that Republican standard-bearers who recognize that GOP’s Latino problems are due to immigration (like Jeb Bush) are willing and able to stifle the influence of the extremists in the party.

During an interview with the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday, President Obama said, “if we get that piece done [deficit reduction/fiscal cliff], then immigration reform I think is there to get done…[Republicans] can’t continue to alienate the fastest-growing segment of the country. And it’s the right thing to do.”  The President’s comments echo those from his conversation with the Des Moines Register editorial board, during which he stated:

The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform.  And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt.  Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.  And this is a relatively new phenomenon.  George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America.  And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done.  And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I’ve cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.

Vice President Biden also highlighted immigration reform as a top second-term priority, making the case on Enrique Santos’ Univisión Radio show that heavy Latino voter turnout in favor of Democrats would apply additional pressure on Republicans, whose future political viability would hinge on them coming to the table to pursue immigration reform.  Said Biden:

Right now, you’ve got the president and I and a lot of Democrats out there breaking our neck trying to get a real immigration law that takes millions of people out of the shadows, making sure that ‘Dreamers’ don’t have to go back in many cases to countries they’ve never been…If the Latino vote comes out, the Hispanic vote comes out and changes the election, all of a sudden those guys who paid no attention to you, no attention to the Hispanic community, no attention to the Latino community.  All of a sudden they’re going to say, ‘Oh my Lord I guess we better get in line with the president.’

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

While increased leadership on immigration from a re-elected Democratic Administration would be welcome and essential, under every single scenario imaginable, congressional Republicans will still play the key role in determining whether positive immigration reform legislation passes or fails in the next Congress.  Instead of the party’s immigration stance being driven by fears of alienating the small but vocal sliver of Republican primary voters who are avowedly anti-immigrant and against reform, the Republican Party should be more worried about the growing power of the much larger number of Latino voters for whom immigration reform is a defining and mobilizing issue.  As polling demonstrates, Latino voters know that Mitt Romney hasn’t distanced himself from his vow to veto the DREAM Act and pursue ‘self-deportation.’  And these same voters are poised to help decide the election come next Tuesday.