Gebe Martinez wrote in this week’s Politico that “in presidential transition offices, immigration is cited as a top-tier issue that Obama will have to tackle early in his administration.” While everyone knows the economy is the first order of business, even Michael Chertoff would agree that something needs to be done about immigration especially after it was revealed that undocumented workers were tidying up his suburban Maryland home.
Chertoff would find himself in Conservative company. Leading Republicans have begun to publicly criticize the GOP’s handling of the immigration issue following the Party’s historic losses in November and the Republicans are rethinking their Hispanic strategy.
On the Democratic side, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that immigration reform was on the docket for the 111th Congress, that he didn’t expect “much of a fight at all.”
Senator Reid is right that there’s an appetite for reform across the nation. A strong majority of voters deeply concerned about the economy agree that legalization, rather than mass deportation, is a stronger approach. When asked if the country would be better off if undocumented immigrants “left the country because they are taking away jobs Americans need,” or “became legal taxpayers so they pay their fair share,” 62% of voters nationwide chose legal status, as did 69% of Latinos and 66% of voters in swing districts. Less than a fifth of voters chose the more restrictionist policy.
Other indications come from Obama’s nominations of key champions of tough, fair, and practical immigration reform to serve in his Administration including Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and National Council of La Raza Senior Vice-President Cecilia Muñoz.
Still fresh in people’s minds is President-elect Obama’s promise to make immigration reform a first-year priority, even before the overwhelming Latino and immigrant vote helped launch him to the Presidency. It’d be wrong to think that’s a promise he won’t deliver on.