Even before the health care bill is set in stone, the White House has been working behind the scenes to lay the foundation for a massive overhaul of the immigration system in 2010. In a move that is sure to cause some drama for President Obama, senior White House officials have reportedly been assuring prominent Latino community leaders that any immigration reform they push would include a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in the United States. Along with the citizenship provision, the Obama administration will advocate tighter security along our borders.
But this two-prong approach has long met resistance from Republicans, who insist that the tightened security must be proven to be effective before any citizenship can be extended to those already living in the United States. "We know from a lot of experience that immigration reform has been and can be a very polarizing issue. There are heated differences about whether there ought to be some kind of pathway to citizenship for people who entered the country illegally," Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told the LA Times.
With President Obama facing a full year in which he will be grappling with global warming legislation, economic recovery and tougher regulation of the financial industry, why is immigration suddenly such an important topic? Many point to the Fall 2010 elections as an important turning point for his administration. "The bulk of the people needing immigration reform are Latino," said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). "There's a level of disenchantment about where we're going...And if you don't give the Latino community a reason to participate in the elections, you weaken your base even more."