Why busy Obama is focusing on long-shot issue of immigration reform
President Obama gives a speech Thursday on the need for federal immigration reform. He may be directing attention to the issue in a bid to turn up the heat on Congress to act, some analysts say.
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Obama has since reached out to a half-dozen Republican senators to try to spur bipartisan action, but found no takers. Another onetime stalwart for comprehensive reform, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, has also taken a harder line in the face of a tough primary challenge that threatens his reelection.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The scene at the US/Mexico border
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Arizona’s strict new immigration-control law has also given Obama fodder for his federal immigration reform push, amid concerns that a lack of action in Washington will give way to an unwieldy patchwork of laws across the country. Arizona’s law, which goes into effect July 29, requires local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people “reasonably suspected” of being in the US illegally and stopped for other possible legal infractions. The Obama administration has raised concerns the law could lead to ethnic profiling, and is reportedly preparing to file a lawsuit challenging the Arizona statute.
Tensions flared between Washington and Arizona earlier this week, when a team of federal officials met with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) on border security and announced that the state would get 524 of the 1,200 planned new troops for the US border with Mexico. Governor Brewer called that allocation inadequate.
Polls show Americans strongly back the Arizona law and the emphasis on border security, but the immigration issue contains political risks for both parties. Hispanic voters, a fast-growing segment of the electorate, voted heavily for Obama in 2008, and Democrats could lock in Hispanic support well into the future if they are perceived as more sympathetic to their concerns – including, but not limited to, immigration policy. But short-term, the Republican emphasis on law and order is likely a winner in many battleground states and districts.
A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 58 percent support for the new Arizona law, but almost equal support (57 percent) for a program that would give “illegal immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements.”
“This should be welcome news for the president and proponents of comprehensive immigration reform and should be a signal to Congress that the American public may be more prepared to accept a bargain struck between supporters of enforcement-only proposals and supporters of legalization,” Ms. Singer wrote on the Brookings website.
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IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border