President Obama Lights Torch for Common Sense Immigration Reform

Written by on June 25, 2009 in Legislation, Reform with 0 Comments

Today the President, Vice President, and key cabinet members met with a bipartisan group of Senate and House leaders on immigration reform in a closed-door meeting at the White House. The White House characterized the meeting as the “launch” of a policy conversation and “an honest discussion about the issues.”

True to “Yes We Can” form, President Obama’s no-nonsense remarks after the meeting indicated that the time for inflammatory rhetoric is over and the time for genuine dialogue is now.

But what I’m encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue, we’ve got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now, but to start working on this thing right now.

The President also signaled his ongoing engagement in the legislative process when he appointed Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, to lead an immigration working group to include executive branch officials and members of Congress. The working group is tasked with producing solid, practical legislation that supports legal immigration, reunites families, and creates a framework for addressing the needs of employers and workers alike.

Most notable, however, is the President’s commitment to a bipartisan immigration effort. The President commended Sen. John McCain’s past immigration efforts even though Sen. McCain paid “politically significant costs.”

Getting out in front of the issue, the President acknowledged that there will be challenges, as there are in any legislative process, but reassured the public that he is dedicated to finally moving forward in a genuine, bipartisan fashion, on a reasoned and reasonable debate on comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, we all know that comprehensive immigration reform is difficult. We know it’s a sensitive and politically volatile issue. One of the things that was said around the table is the American people still don’t have enough confidence that Congress and any administration is going to get serious about border security, and so they’re concerned that any immigration reform simply will be a short-term legalization of undocumented workers with no long-term solution with respect to future flows of illegal immigration.

What’s also been acknowledged is that the 12 million or so undocumented workers are here — who are not paying taxes in the ways that we’d like them to be paying taxes, who are living in the shadows, that that is a group that we have to deal with in a practical, common-sense way. And I think the American people are ready for us to do so. But it’s going to require some heavy lifting, it’s going to require a victory of practicality and common sense and good policymaking over short-term politics. That’s what I’m committed to doing as President.

Clearly, as he indicated today and throughout his campaign, President Obama is serious about forging ahead with comprehensive immigration reform, but needs both sides of the aisle to come to the table with real, practical and viable solutions on an issue that has divided too many for too long.

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