Sunday, February 17, 2013

Obama's Immigration Reform Proposal

In his State of the Union speech, Obama issued a very emotional call for Congress to act on gun control legislation. His comments about immigration reform, however, were much more muted. He simply said that if Congress agreed on a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, he would sign it. Politicians on both sides of the isle praised his hands-off approach as a proper recognition that an immigration bill would only have a chance to pass if Republicans and Democrats in the houses of Congress could come together and hash something out.

For that reason, many were surprised today to find that Obama had released a draft immigration bill. Okay, it wasn't formally released, but it was "leaked" by someone inside the White House.

Obama's proposal offers unauthorized immigrants an opportunity to obtain permanent residency in eight years, with citizenship following after that. Some unauthorized immigrants will be excluded, such as those who have committed certain crimes, such as felonies or three crimes that collectively led to a sentence of more than 90 days.

The reaction to the leaked proposal seems to be pretty negative thus far, partly based on some of the substantive proposals but also because the White House is proposing anything at all. But Obama must have leaked it for a reason. If nothing else, by providing a blueprint of what he would like to see, he offers Republicans an opportunity to diverge from his official vision, which might make it easier for them to explain their support of a bill ("yes I agreed to an immigration reform bill, but we made it much better than what the President wanted"). Additionally, he has not technically gone against his call to Congress, since the leaked proposal is not something he currently plans to submit to Congress.

Congress' public reactions to the proposal in the next few days will provide some insight into individual members' stances on a variety of issues, so we'll have to stay tuned.

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