Opinion: Obama’s immigration speech: Just a way to get Latino and Asian voters?


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President Obama is scheduled to speak Tuesday afternoon on fixing the nation’s broken immigration system. But don’t expect him to put a comprehensive immigration proposal back on the table, given the split in Congress. Republicans have repeatedly called for an enforcement-only approach to immigration, while Democrats have moved for modest changes such as the DREAM Act, which would provide a respite from deportation for some students who qualify.

Observers say the president hopes the speech will serve a dual purpose: to restart the conversation on immigration reform and to rebuild support among those Latino and Asian voters who are unhappy about the administration’s inability to address the issue. Until now, Homeland Security officials have largely focused on enforcement priorities. Nearly 400,000 immigrants were deported last year, and worksite audits are also up.


The speech comes as more and more states appear to be wading into immigration. Nearly a dozen states are debating bills to create their own laws to deal with illegal workers. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday that she plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review that state’s controversial law that, among other things, requires individuals to show proof that they are legally in the U.S. A federal judge put much of the law on hold last year. The Justice Department challenged the law, arguing that only the federal government can create immigration laws.

And last week, Illinois announced it wants out of Secure Communities. Under the program, the fingerprints of all inmates booked into local jails and cross-checked with the FBI’s criminal database are now forwarded by that agency to Immigration and Customs Enforcement so the person can be screened for immigration status. The program was supposed to target immigrants with serious criminal convictions, but nearly half of those deported have no criminal convictions. California lawmakers are considering a plan that would automatically allow all counties to opt out of the program.

Obama’s speech is expected to touch on providing a few remedies, but will that be enough or too much?


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--Sandra Hernandez