President Obama Renews Push for Immigration Reform

In a speech delivered at the White House, President Obama renewed his push for immigration reform. Mr. Obama’s remarks come after months in which attention has been focused on a bitter debate with House Republicans that led to a government shutdown and concerns about a nuclear Iran and the civil war in Syria.

The President is trying to refocus his agenda on issues such passing a comprehensive immigration package . Mr. Obama called immigration a top item on his domestic agenda, saying that “this is the moment we should be able to finally get the job done.” What are the prospects that the House will pass immigration legislation? House Republicans don’t see any urgency in passing comprehensive immigration reform. They would rather focus on small immigration bills which they feel it’s to their political advantage. Hard-line conservative Republicans said that they don’t foresee any movement on immigration this year or in 2014, while a sizable group of traditional Republicans favor passing some version of immigration reform. This reflects a deep division within the GOP over the proposals which, at least at this point, seem irreconcilable. But with the polls showing broad support for reform and after the government shutdown fiasco, internal political pressure may force the House Republican leaders to bring immigration legislation to the floor.

Backers of immigration reform have received an unusual boast from a coalition of business conservatives and evangelical groups. They are pressuring the House Republicans for immigration action. Some are even considering withholding future financial support to House GOP members they believe are blocking the legislation. This past Tuesday’s event was sponsored among others by the US Chamber of Commerce; led my Mark Zuckenberg; a pro-immigration group led by Mayor Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch and Bill Mariott Jr, and Grover Norquist, the founder of the Americans for Tax Reform.

In a separate development, immigration advocates have scored a major victory in their effort to repeal the Alabama’s draconian immigration law. Just this week, NY Times reports that state officials in Alabama have agreed to remove some of the major provisions intended to harass and expel immigrants. This is a huge set-back for a hard-line immigration strategy that was nothing but a misguided and senseless endeavor to inhumanely treat immigrants and force them to “self-deport”.

Under the proposed settlement, the state acknowledges that requiring public schools to verify student’s immigration status, criminalizing efforts by undocumented to look for work or failure to carry immigration documentation, and invalidating contracts signed by these immigrants violate the Constitution. Alabama also acknowledged that state and local police cannot detain anyone merely on suspicion of being in the country illegally.

Alabama’s radical immigration law didn’t only hurt immigrants; it also damaged its local economy and industries like agriculture. Hopefully this would be a good lesson for those who promote hard-core immigration policies. Not only they don’t work, they are self-destructive. Alex Muntean is an Immigration Attorney in Charlotte, NC


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