Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The American people reelected President Obama yesterday. In his victory speech, the President emphasized that, among other things, immigration reform remained an important goal of the next term. Exit polling shows that Latinos voted overwhelmingly for the President.
Hopes for immigration reform are high. The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum:
“Today our nation witnessed the strength of democracy in action. An extraordinary number of voters, including record numbers of Latino, Asian and New American voters, went to the polls clamoring for practical solutions that honor our values and move our nation forward.
“The message was clear: President Obama must fulfill his campaign promise and work with congressional leaders to create a common-sense immigration process that treats all people with dignity. And Republicans must choose pragmatism over extremism on immigration, putting forward practical solutions that create a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans.
“In the words of CNN political analyst David Gergen earlier today, 'Whoever wins, we will get immigration reform. The Democrats want it and the Republicans need it.’
“President Obama can look to a growing alliance of conservative faith, business and law enforcement leaders who are laying the groundwork for bipartisan support on immigration reform.
“Look no further than Grover Norquist, a conservative power player, for a key example of the emerging consensus among conservatives and moderates on a common-sense approach on immigration. As Mr. Norquist recently stated, ‘Immigration is the most important thing to focus on if you’re concerned about America as an economic power. It’s not only good policy to have more immigrants to the United States … [and] a path forward for those people who are here; it's also good politics.’
“Today’s election marks the introduction of something different: a powerful bipartisan alliance that expects pragmatic immigration solutions from President Obama and the 113th Congress."
I have at times been critical of the Obama administration's enforcement-oriented approach to immigration. Despite the much-publicized Deferred Action for Childhood Arriivals program, the administration has set records for deportations and detentions. The Secure Communities program created and implemented by the administration has struck fear in the heart of immigrant communities with people fearing any interactions with local police (and making it difficult for police to detect and fight crime). As President Reagan did in his second term with the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, it is time for the President to push for truly comprehensive immigration reform -- to establish a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, to improve the legal immigration system, and fine-tune enforcement. It seems clear that the Latino voters who turned out for the President will accept no less.