President Obama Indicates Push for Immigration Reform in January 2013

President Obama Indicates Push for Immigration Reform in January 2013

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that four years ago, President-elect Barack Obama promised to push for comprehensive reform to fix a broken immigration system by the end of his first year in office.

This afternoon, at his first press conference since winning re-election last week, President Obama promised to push for comprehensive reform to fix a broken immigration system by next January.

This time he really means it.

The Democratic president said it is “my expectation” that a comprehensive immigration proposal will be introduced on Capitol Hill “very soon after my inauguration” on Jan. 20.

“We need to seize the moment,” he told reporters gathered in the East Room of the White House.

Obama was backed by 71 percent of Latino voters in the general election, according to exit polls, and 77 percent of  Hispanic women.

The president said the “significant increase in Latino turnout” in the 2012 election was an “incredibly encouraging sign” for the political empowerment of the nation’s largest minority group. The rising participation rates of Latino voters “is going to be powerful and good for the country,” Obama said.

In the short-run, he said, the Democratic dominance will “cause some reflection on the part of the Republicans.”

And that, he suggests, is “a positive sign” for immigration reform.

Obama said the elements of any comprehensive plan would include the following: strong border security measures, penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers, increased visas for high-skilled workers, a program for agricultural employers, a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants illegally brought into the U.S. by their parents, and a pathway toward legal status for illegal immigrants who have not engaged in criminal contact, pay back taxes and a fine, and learn English.

“I think that’s something we can get done,” he said.

Obama promised four years ago to aggressively push for immigration reform, but the issue was a lower priority than dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and the president’s health-care overhaul. Comprehensive immigration legislation passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2010 but died in the Senate, where Democrats could not muster the votes to foil a threatened Republican filibuster.

Ebullient immigration reform advocates predicted today that next year would be different.

“It now appears that 2013 will be the year that Congress passes real immigration reform,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund.

Sharry said Obama now has “made it clear that comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority for early 2013.”

“As he predicted before the election, Latino voters punished the GOP and its nominee Mitt Romney for lurching to the right on immigration,” Sharry continued. “And as we see now, numerous Republicans – from John Boehner to Sean Hannity to John McCain to Rand Paul – are gearing up to work with Democrats to put 11 million undocumented immigrants – including DREAMers and their parents – on the road to citizenship. This is a dramatic and welcome set of developments.”

Other pro-immigration activists put both parties on notice that they expect action.

“The demand in the growing Latino, Asian and all immigrant communities for politicians to deliver citizenship is only going to get stronger and that demand is supported by the majority of Americans,” said Marisol Valero, communications director of the United We Dream Network, the largest network of immigrant youth-led organizations in the country .