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What a Week for Immigration Reform

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Obama Administration Steps Up on Immigration Reform; Anti-Immigrant Movement Falters

Last week was huge for the immigration reform movement.  First, CNN paid off Lou Dobbs to take his ranting and raving about immigrants and immigration reform off of television.  Then, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano made it clear in a major address at the Center for American Progress that the Obama Administration is committed to moving on immigration reform in early 2010, a commitment reiterated on Sunday by David Axelrod.  Finally, over the weekend, the attempt by the anti-immigrant movement to use the tea party movement as a vehicle for their extremist views turned out to be a bust.  As Arian Campo-Flores wrote in Newsweek, “it’s been a week to savor for immigration advocates.” 

“We are used to the beltway-based conventional wisdom that says comprehensive immigration reform won’t happen in this Congress because opponents are too strong and the Obama Administration’s commitment is not strong enough.  Witnessing the events of the last week should help turn the conventional wisdom upside down – meaning right side up,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.  “What many pundits – and some Democrats – fail to grasp is that Democrats were hired to solve tough problems and move away from politics as usual. This means leaning into issues such as immigration reform, standing up to opponents who are more bark than bite, and demonstrating the ability to govern effectively.” 

Among the positive developments last week for immigration reform:

  • Dobbs dropped.  Last Wednesday, the news broke that CNN anchor Lou Dobbs was leaving the network.  The departure of Dobbs, who was television’s leading spokesperson for the anti-immigrant movement, is an important step towards clearing the way for an honest immigration debate in our country that is based on facts, instead of falsehoods and demagoguery.  As Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote of Dobbs last August, “For years, he has crusaded against illegal immigration by citing facts and figures that often turn out to be wrong.  Television can confer a kind of pseudo-reality on any manner of nonsense.”  
  • Game on.  Last Friday and over the weekend, the Obama Administration reiterated its support for moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform legislation in 2010. First, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano demonstrated her support for comprehensive reform legislation in a compelling speech at the Center for American Progress, saying, “When it comes to immigration, I took an oath as Secretary of Homeland Security to secure the nation by enforcing the law and managing legal flows across the border. Let me be clear: to do this job as effectively as possible, DHS needs immigration reform,” and, “The first part of 2010, we will see legislation beginning to move.”  Then, over the weekend, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod backed up Secretary Napolitano’s comments and told CNN’s John King that “good work is being done on both sides of the aisle” to advance immigration reform legislation in 2010.

  • Weak tea.  An extremist organization called ALIPAC decided that piggybacking on the attention garnered by the over-hyped tea party movement would intimidate policy makers in both parties. But their events Saturday drew few supporters, with many events attracting 10-15 people and none attracting crowds of any significance.  This shows what smart political operatives in both parties have known for some time: the anti-immigrant movement is running out of gas, and never had as much fuel as they made believe.  As the Washington Examiner noted of a Northern Virginia anti-immigrant event, “If Alexandria’s event was an indication of how popular anti-immigration tea parties are, ALIPAC has much work to do between now and next spring when the organization plans to combat the Democrats comprehensive immigration reform drive.”  

Added Sharry, “This time around the immigration debate will be very different.  The last election clearly showed that Latinos can deliver at the ballot box, and that immigration as a wedge issue has not only failed but backfired.  The anti-immigrant forces are a spent force that always produced more noise than votes.  And the forces for reform are stronger than ever.  It’s time for policy makers to respond to voters hungry for solutions with action and not excuses.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.