His­panic groups raise ante on im­mi­gra­tion re­form with Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of a His­panic woman to the Supreme Court does not give him ex­tra breath­ing space to put off a con­tentious fight on im­mi­gra­tion, His­panic groups and im­mi­grantrights ad­vo­cates said June 3.

“They op­er­ate on par­al­lel tracks, sep­a­rate tracks,” said John Podesta, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, as he joined nearly a dozen other leaders of a coali­tion that is try­ing to lay the ground­work so Mr. Obama can tackle im­mi­gra­tion this year.

Af­ter Mr. Obama nom­i­nated fed­eral ap­peals court Judge So­nia So­tomayor to the Supreme Court, po­lit­i­cal pun­dits said her se­lec­tion — she would be the first His­panic jus­tice — would buy the pres­i­dent enough good will among His­panic vot­ers that he might be able to go slower in push­ing for im­mi­gra­tion.

But Mr. Podesta said the White House doesn’t see her nom­i­na­tion as a stalling tac­tic on im­mi­gra­tion.

“I don’t think that’s the way the the past two years. They ex­pect Mr. Obama to make good on his cam­paign prom­ises to push for an over­haul of the na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem this year.

They said that must in­clude le­gal­iz­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants, ex­tend­ing due-process rights to im­mi­grants and in­creas­ing

“A prom­ise is a prom­ise, and he made a com­mit­ment to move for­ward with im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and we’re go­ing to help him keep that prom­ise,” said Janet Mur­guia, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza.

pres­i­dent thinks. I think that he picked the per­son he thought would best serve on the Supreme Court,” Mr. Podesta said.

Speak­ing at the Na­tional Press Club in Wash­ing­ton, Mr. Podesta and leaders from civil rights, la­bor, agri­cul­ture and re­li­gious groups said the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate has changed on im­mi­gra­tion over en­force­ment at the bor­ders and against em­ploy­ers who hire il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

“A prom­ise is a prom­ise, and he made a com­mit­ment to move for­ward with im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and we’re go­ing to help him keep that prom­ise,” said Janet Mur­guia, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza.

Im­mi­gra­tion bills failed in 2006 and 2007 de­spite hav­ing the sup­port of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, though Democrats say the pol­i­tics of the is­sue have changed since the 2008 elec­tion.

Al­ready, action is heat­ing up in Congress, where the Se­nate Judi- ciary Com­mit­tee held a hear­ing June 3 on a bill that would al­low same-sex part­ners the same im­mi­gra­tion rights as mar­ried cou­ples. And on June 4, Rep. Michael M. Honda, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, in­tro­duced a bill to ex­pand op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­mi­grants to bring their fam­ily to the United States, in­clud­ing for same-sex part­ners.

Mr. Obama also isn’t rest­ing. On June 3, his Jus­tice Depart­ment an­nounced that im­mi­grants fac­ing de­por­ta­tion have a right to ap­peal their cases on the grounds of hav­ing re­ceived poor le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, sus­pend­ing a rul­ing from the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Jus­tice Depart­ment that said im­mi­grants had no such claim.

Still, the pres­i­dent has backed off his cam­paign prom­ise to have a bill done this year. In­stead, he now says his goal is to be­gin work on a bill and to ad­vance the de­bate, adding that his ad­min­is­tra­tion must prove the bor­ders can be se­cure be­fore il­le­gal im­mi­grants can be le­gal­ized.

“If the Amer­i­can peo­ple don’t feel like you can se­cure the bor­ders,” Mr. Obama said in an April news con­fer­ence, “then it’s hard to strike a deal that would get peo­ple out of the shad­ows and on a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship who are al­ready here, be­cause the at­ti­tude of the av­er­age Amer­i­can is go­ing to be, ‘Well, you’re just go­ing to have hun­dreds of thou­sands of more com­ing in each year.’ ”

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