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Little changed later in the speech when the president outlined his specifics for reform. Moving from border security and holding businesses accountable if they hired illegals, he noted that “those who are here illegally have a responsibility as well..to admit that they broke the law, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. And they have to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they can get in line for legalization.” That last bit begs an obvious question: where will illegals be getting in line? Can they remain in America, or will they be required to re-enter the country legally?
The president also re-iterated his support for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, aka the DREAM ACT, which would legalize those who arrived in the country as minors, provided they got a college degree or completed two years of military service within a specific time frame. And once again, he fudged the facts on its most recent rejection, claiming that “even though it received a majority of votes in the Senate, it was blocked when several Republicans who had previously supported the DREAM Act voted no.”
Reality check number two: Democrats controlled both houses of Congress prior to the 2010 election. The DREAM Act passed in the House, but it died in the Senate when Democrats could only muster 55 of the 60 votes required to end a filibuster. And while a majority of Republicans did in fact vote against it, five Democrats also voted no: Max Baucus and John Tester of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. If those Democrats had voted yes, the DREAM Act would have passed.
The president did offer one fix with which most Americans would likely agree: “reforming our outdated system of legal immigration.” Yet even here the president remained potentially contentious. Saying that “while applicants wait for approval, for example, they’re often forbidden from visiting the United States… husbands and wives may have to spend years apart. Parents can’t see their children. I don’t believe the United States of America should be in the business of separating families.”
Perhaps not, but this is a president who plays fast and loose with the facts, and one of the ideas many American resent with respect to comprehensive immigration reform is the concept known as “chain migration,” which refers most commonly to the extended families of newly legalized immigrants being allow to come to the United States to “reunite” with their relatives. As the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) noted, “Illegal aliens given amnesty by Congress in 1986 are now fueling naturalization in record numbers. As these former illegal aliens become citizens, all of their immediate relatives qualify to come immediately to the United States, and start new migration chains of their own.” Again, that was when 2.7 million illegals were granted amnesty, not potentially 11 million–assuming that number is accurate.
As of now, accurate or not, it is irrelevant. Despite the president’s speech yesterday, comprehensive immigration reform is currently a non-starter in Congress — and Mr. Obama knows it. Despite telling the audience that “there is a movement for reform that’s gathering strength from coast to coast,” the president knows full well that if he couldn’t get comprehensive immigration reform passed when Democrats had substantial majorities in both houses of Congress, there’s no chance of getting it done now. He also knows that a substantial portion of the mainstream media will not bother to fact-check this speech. Thus, the president can get away with the narrative of demonizing Republicans in order to re-energize the Hispanic vote he believes will ensure his 2012 re-election as a result.
Yet such re-energizing is not a done deal. An April Gallup Poll revealed that his support among Hispanics has been eroding. Even more importantly, Mr. Obama might want to consider how comprehensive immigration reform plays with respect to another constituency crucial to his re-election: a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken in March reveals that “69% of voters not affiliated with either major party,” aka the Independent voters who put the president over the top in 2008, believe, similar to the results in the Gallup poll mentioned earlier, that “gaining control of the border is more important” than “legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living here.”
Perhaps the president won the battle with respect to the Hispanic vote in El Paso today. Whether he’ll win the war in November of 2012 when Independent voters makes their preferences known remains to be seen. One last thing. It should be noted that, as a result of Osama bin Laden’s death, last week was arguably the best one for the president since his election in 2008. Yet for some reason, Mr. Obama couldn’t give the American public a consistent story about what happened. As with this speech, one has to wonder whether such inconsistency is by accident, design–or a habit of dissembling this president finds impossible to break.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributor to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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