The White House is planning to start addressing the nation’s immigration system as early as May, two senior administration officials said Thursday.
President Obama will rely on a bipartisan, diverse group of experts to help build the framework for legislation, the officials said. One official noted that immigration will not be “on the same track” as other key initiatives like health care and energy, and “nobody’s promising legislation or a vote this year.” There are roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. In addition to making a way for some of them to stay in the country legally, CNN has learned the Obama administration wants to remove incentives to enter the U.S. illegally, beef up border security and work with Mexico to cut down on illegal immigration. Meanwhile, the administration is dismissing suggestions that taking on immigration this year will put pressure on Obama’s already ambitious domestic agenda. Watch how the immigration fight is shaping up » Moving forward on immigration would fulfill another campaign promise. The president acknowledges that tackling this issue will be challenging. In March, at a town hall meeting in California, Obama said immigration is an emotional and controversial issue that “people get riled up politically about.”
Commentary: Enforce laws vs. hiring illegal immigrants
He added: “People who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanisms over time to get out of the shadows.” Even before the debate begins, Rep. Steve King, R-New York, is throwing the first punch, saying: “President Obama’s amnesty plan is a dangerous path for our nation that will sacrifice the rule of law.” As a senator, Obama supported immigration legislation backed by President Bush, which would have increased funding and improved border security technology, improved enforcement of existing laws, and provided a legal path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. He also voted to authorize construction of a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Thursday that Congress was willing to work with Obama on comprehensive immigration reform. “We must solve the immigration issue and we can, even in these difficult economic times. I believe there is a real chance of passing comprehensive reform this year, and the Senate panel on immigration will begin a series of meetings and hearings later this month with an eye towards meeting that goal,” said Schumer, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on immigration. But is the political climate right for immigration reform to be brought up given the struggling economy Marisa Trevino, who runs the blog LatinaLista.net, said there’s simply “never going to be a good time” for immigration reform. Trevino argues that immigration is tied to economic growth — and therefore timely. “It’s not going to be popular with some people, but I think this actually is a good time to bring it up because immigration is tied so closely with our economy and what drives economic growth is economic development.” It’s a point that one long-time immigration attorney agrees with.
“The immigration lawyers community really believes that it’s long overdue. … There are actually many economic studies and reports that confirm that there’s a stimulus benefit to immigration reform,” said Laura Danielson, who is the chairwoman of the immigration department at the firm of Fredrikson & Byron. “There’s a lot to be said for the fact that immigrants stimulate our economic growth, particularly those already living here, who are hiding in the shadows [undocumented workers] who would be able to buy homes and come out in the open and work more effectively by perhaps starting businesses,” she added.