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President Obama is acting like he cares about passing a major immigration bill. He met earlier this week with pro-immigration groups to press on the need for Congress to quickly take up a reform bill. Of course, he's said this before - usually followed by comments from senior Administration people basically saying the President really didn't mean THIS year. Right now, the main plan of the White House is opposing the Arizona immigration law in court. Nice, but this is hardly taking responsibility for solving our immigration program.
The President also met yesterday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.Obama reportedly said he's about to take a "new and aggressive" approach to getting reform done. He told CHC members that he'll give a very important speech on immigration tomorrow. So we'll see if there really is anything other than lip service to report.
Sorry to sound like a cynic, but right now it looks like the White House is looking to try and keep Hispanic voters from ruining the Democrats' prospects in November but without actually doing anything on immigration.
One of the options the President has had on the table - one every President has - is using an administrative option to provide temporary legal status and work authorization to those in the country illegally. Rumors have been spreading within the community of antis around the country and they've gotten a handful of hardcore anti-immigrant members of Congress to send a letter warning the President to drop the idea (if indeed it was really being considered.
How could President Obama do what the paralyzed Congress can't? Two options come to mind. He could look at a blanket policy using the same Temporary Protected Status provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act that allowed Haitians to remain in the US after the earthquake.
The INA reads as follows:
244(b)(1) In general.--The Attorney General, after consultation with appropriate agencies of the Government, may designate any foreign state (or any part of such foreign state) under this subsection only if--
244(b)(1)(A) the Attorney General finds that there is an ongoing armed conflict within the state and, due to such conflict, requiring the return of aliens who are nationals of that state to that state (or to the part of the state) would pose a serious threat to their personal safety;
244(b)(1)(B) the Attorney General finds that--
244(b)(1)(B)(i) there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in the area affected,
244(b)(1)(B)(ii) the foreign state is unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return to the state of aliens who are nationals of the state, and 244(b)(1)(B)(iii) the foreign state officially has requested designation under this subparagraph; or
244(b)(1)(C) the Attorney General finds that there exist extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state that prevent aliens who are nationals of the state from returning to the state in safety, unless the Attorney General finds that permitting the aliens to remain temporarily in the United States is contrary to the national interest of the United States.
Normally, the provision is used when there's a civil war, hurricane, earthquake, etc. But the little used 244(b)(1)(C) gives the President a lot more flexibility. He could say, for example, that the countries that depend on remittances from illegally present immigrants would suffer economic disaster that would befall such countries should we deport all of the millions of people here illegally meets the test. He could use the horrendous drug war going on in Mexico as the reason. I'm sure there are a variety of other reasons that could meet the test.
TPS is an interesting possibility because it would not offer any permanent immigration rights, but would remove the threat of deportation while Congress then can focus on passing a tough border security bill and also deal with the longer term legal immigration reforms that are needed.
Deferring a decision on the long term status of illegally present immigrants via TPS also could help change the politics. The immigrants would no longer be illegally present and this might help people get past the wall blocking progress on the issue. Congress could, in fact, keep TPS in place until most of the people currently in line for green cards are processed and only then look to coming up with a permanent fix for this population.
The members of Congress who protested to the President apparently think humanitarian parole is the option being considered. They argue that this option can only be used in a case by case manner. Of course, the President can order USCIS to liberally consider parole status in a very broad variety of circumstances and this could lead to something like the old 245(i) program that existed in years past.
Here's the letter sent to the White House.
I'm actually writing this blog post on an airplane with Internet access. That's a first for me and those of you who know how much I love technology can probably envision the smile on my face.
Back to the post, however. This is really remarkable. Fox News has championed the most hostile antis out there. So when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch showed up on the popular Fox and Friends yesterday to explain why we need comprehensive immigration reform, that had to make major waves at the network.
The appearance was noted in a major segment on Fox competitor MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann who had a lot of fun with the turn of events. I'm not holding my breath that the network coverage will change much, but I also didn't think we would have gotten rid of Lou Dobbs as fast as we did either.
From Public Policy Polling:
Our poll of the Texas Governor's race this week is another data point indicating possible backlash for Republican candidates this fall in the wake of the Arizona immigration law.
When we polled the race in Februrary Rick Perry led Bill White by 6 points. The race is tied now, and the movement since the previous poll has come completely with Hispanic voters. With white voters Perry led 54-35 then and leads 55-35 now. With black voters White led 81-12 then and leads 70-7 now. But with Hispanics Perry has gone from leading 53-41 in February to now trailing 55-21. And it's not that the sample of Hispanic voters we interviewed for this poll was somehow fundamentally different from the previous one- Barack Obama's approval with them on this poll was 49% compared to 47% on the previous Texas poll.
Hispanics moving toward Democratic candidates since the Arizona immigration bill was signed is becoming a trend in our polling of western states. Previous races where we polled before and after the signing of the immigration bill showed Rodney Glassman going from a 17 point deficit against John McCain with Hispanics to a 17 point lead, Michael Bennet going from a 12 point lead to a 21 point lead against Jane Norton with them, and Terry Goddard going from a 20 point lead to a 46 point lead with them.
There's no doubt the immigration bill is popular nationally. But if it causes Hispanics to change their voting behavior without a parallel shift among whites then it's going to end up playing to Democratic advantage this fall. It's much more important to look at how Hispanic voters in states with large Hispanic populations are reacting than it is to look at the national numbers, at least as it pertains to this fall's election.
Markos Moulitsas, the prominent left of center blogger, writes in the Hill:
Once promising, the GOP’s designs on the Golden State governor’s mansion and Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat are now running aground on a serious, self-imposed obstacle — the months of anti-immigrant rhetoric voiced by their candidates in this immigrant-rich state.
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman began the campaign as an immigration moderate, but veered to the right in order to win her party's nomination.
“Let me be very clear: I am 100 percent against amnesty, no exceptions,” she said. “[U]ntil we actually do secure the border and actually stop illegal immigration, we can’t talk about any other solutions, and I am 100 percent against amnesty.”
Reinforcing her harsh views on immigration, Whitman’s campaign chairman is former Gov. Pete Wilson — the architect of the hateful and hated anti-immigrant Proposition 187.
Carly Fiorina, the former HP boss who is the GOP nominee for Senator is even more strident in her rhetoric:
Responding to Democratic attacks on the racist Arizona anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070, Fiorina said she was “outraged” at what she saw as the vilification of Arizona and a law she strongly supported.
Fiorina doesn’t worry too much about them, as she told Fox News: “When I talk with members of the Latino community … what they say to me is, you know what, this is a question of criminals crossing the border.” Of course, it’s not. Not in the real world, anyway. A bipartisan survey for America’s Voice conducted by Lake Research (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) found that while 60 percent of Americans supported Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, with 23 opposing, the numbers were 35-55 percent among Latinos.
Kos points out that between 2000 and 2008, Latino turnout in California has grown 85% increasing from 1.6 million voters to nearly 3 million. That's more than 1/5 of all voters.
Whitman has apparently figured out that her immigration position will doom her campaign and has started trying to move back to the center. She's running ads in Spanish during World Cup matches claiming to care about the needs of the Latino community. Democrats are paying to translate and re-run her earlier anti-immigrant ads in Spanish, something that is probably a first in American politics as far as I know.
Fiorina has already given up.
California is starting to look like other purple and blue states where Republicans were in the untenable position of having to go too far to the right in order to secure their nominations and then cannot credibly move back to the left in order to appeal to the mainstream electorate. In a year when the GOP should be seeing big gains, they are stuck with a pool of candidates that is far from ideal.