Now that the crisis over whether the United States government can pay its bills is over — at least for the time being — President Barack Obama has pivoted to advocating reform of the nation’s immigration laws.
The president has good cause to want immigration to be in the headlines. Anything that would distract the public from the blundered computer rollout of Obamacare and the continuing revelations about NSA spying on … everybody … would be welcomed by the administration.
With a bipartisan bill already passed by the Senate, the bottleneck is once again in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives … where progress and compromise go to die.
The GOP leadership in the House — which would like to see a series of piecemeal bills pass — has said it has no plans to bring up immigration reform this year, bowing to the same far-right zealots that forced the government shutdown.
Most tea party-backed representatives want nothing to do with anything Obama would support.
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador told Politico that Obama is trying to “destroy the Republican Party” and that GOP leaders would be “crazy” to enter into talks with the president.
Still, there are pragmatic conservatives usually supportive of the Republican Party who see the need for the GOP to get off the dime on immigration. More than 400 business, law enforcement and religious leaders will be in Washington this week to lobby Republicans.
“There is still an appetite to get comprehensive immigration reform done this year,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said. “There is still strong support among the public and lawmakers. And our nation — our economy, our businesses, and our workers — need it more than ever.”
If Obama needs serious discussion about immigration, the Republican Party needs it more.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Obama received 71 percent of the Latino vote in 2012, compared with 27 percent for Mitt Romney.
The Pew study determined that Latinos made up 10 percent of the electorate, up from 9 percent in 2008 and 8 percent in 2004. The Latino percentage is even higher in swing states such as Florida, Colorado and Nevada.
Those numbers are expected to do nothing but rise in the coming years, and wise Republicans know that unless that trend is reversed, they can have scant hope of winning the presidency in 2016 and beyond.
But those with the most at stake are the immigrants who won’t be given a chance to fulfill their potential unless reform happens, and our country at large, which can’t afford to stifle the progress of future business leaders, medical researchers, academics, Nobel Prize winners and other vital contributors to our society.