Published May 13, 2011
Immigration reform, President Obama said Monday, is an issue “that politicians in Washington have been either exploiting or dodging.” Mr. Obama should know because he has spent his time in Washington as senator and president alternately exploiting or dodging the issue.
Start with his observation itself: he made it in a fundraising e-mail that asked for campaign contributions.
The e-mail was sent following his speech Tuesday in El Paso, in which he exaggerated his own record and claimed credit for actions taken under his predecessors (like doubling the size of the Border Patrol). He called for bipartisan cooperation on comprehensive immigration reform and then mocked the very Republicans he’d just asked to join with him.
Mr. Obama’s speech on immigration -- on a day where he made his first visit to the border region since becoming president nearly 28 months ago -- is the latest example that he and his team are in full election mode and could care less about actually getting something done.
After all, in 2008, candidate Obama promised he was “guaranteeing” he’d offer an immigration bill his first year. Once elected, he ignored the issue for a year and a half. Then at the ‘Three Amigos Summit’ in Mexico in August 2009 he vowed that "before the year is out we will have draft legislation, along with sponsors potentially in the House and the Senate who are ready to move this forward, and when we come back next year, that we should be in a position to start acting.” Again, nothing happened. No draft legislation. No sponsors. No action.
This inaction took place while Mr. Obama and the Democrats controlled the Senate by a 60-40 margin and the House by 256 to 178.
Even today, Mr. Obama has no comprehensive proposal, no draft legislation, and no sponsors in either the Senate or the House. Even advocates of comprehensive immigration reform are leery that just like Lucy from the Peanuts comic strip, Mr. Obama is teeing up the ball but will jerk it away at the last minute.
Does Mr. Obama think so little of the American people that he believes he can say these things and no one will remember what he said before? Is he so cynical he thinks we’re that dumb?
Then there was this gem in Mr. Obama’s El Paso speech: a fervent plea for a guest worker program that would make "it easier for the best and the brightest to not only stay here, but also to start businesses and create jobs here” and also “provide our farms a legal way to hire workers that they rely on.”
But this wins the hypocrisy prize in light of then-Senator Obama’s actions during the 2007 immigration reform debate. He claimed to support comprehensive immigration, yet when decision time came, he sided with the unions in gutting the measure.
The Senate was on the verge of passing immigration reform when Majority Leader Harry Reid rashly pulled the bill from the floor before voting began on 150 proposed amendments. He did this without discussing his action with either the Democratic or Republican sponsors or the White House. Reid thought the long amendment process would rile up emotions, ignoring the fact that more amendments improved the bill’s chances for passing. After facing intense blowback from his colleagues, Senator Reid brought the bill up again, but the only way for him to do so was under a Senate rule that allowed only limited amendments.
Unions opposed the guest worker program, one of the three major elements of comprehensive reform. Of the handful of amendments Mr. Reid allowed, two would gut the guest work program. One amendment capped the size of guest workers allowed to 200,000 (rather than making the number depend on the number available jobs) and another would end the program after a 5-year period (which meant few companies would make the investment and participate). Mr. Obama voted in favor of both amendments, and on June 28, 2007, immigration reform failed 53-46.
President Obama is insincere, hypocritical and cynical when it comes immigration reform. As president, he has dodged the issue, doing little to advance it, failing to even offer draft legislation. And as a candidate, he has shown himself more than willing to exploit it to try currying favor with Latino voters.
Americans may have given him the benefit of the doubt in 2008, but they are less likely to accept his excuses now.
They heard the president explain it best himself in El Paso, “It’s easier for politicians to defer the problem until the next election. And there’s always a next election.” If Mr. Obama continues to play politics with immigration reform, the coming election may well end in his defeat.