When it comes to its critique of President Barack Obama on immigration, the left is right. He has completely dropped the ball. In recent articles the left has said that he "has not kept his promise" on immigration, that the issue is on his "back burner" and that he is engaging in "political doubletalk."
[IMGCAP(1)]Candidate Obama was direct, specific and seemingly sincere when he promised three things on immigration: to create secure borders, to remove incentives to enter the U.S. illegally and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, and to bring people out of the shadows.
For those who believed that, well ... never mind. Those campaign message points are ones anyone could agree with. (I would add that there should be a fourth point: no amnesty.) The details may end up being different than his press releases, but let's take him at his word for a moment.
What's wrong is the president's approach. He included only a passing reference to comprehensive immigration reform in his State of the Union speech this year, and then promptly punted to Congress. Congress? We have seen how well that has worked for the president's other initiatives this past year. Having had a little experience passing legislation, it is obvious the president is not prioritizing this effort. Passing major legislation works best when the president uses his megaphone to talk about the issue — and Members can amplify it when they join in — and then work with Congress. If left up to Congress alone to drive a message, an issue as complex as immigration will fragment into a million shards on the floor.
Illegal immigration and our broken immigration system is a serious matter and should be a Congressional and presidential priority. Difficult? Yes. But sometimes the things that are the most difficult are the things that most need to be done.
And, for a faltering president with a disappearing agenda, immigration is one issue, despite its complexity and challenges, where the president could find some bipartisan support and success — that is, if he approaches it correctly.
Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are expected to introduce comprehensive immigration reform legislation soon. I don't know what it will contain. I don't know that I'll support it. But whatever specific provisions it includes, I know that their bill, along with a major immigration march scheduled for this month in Washington, D.C., will reignite the immigration debate.
Given the complexity and the magnitude of the problem, if immigration reform has any chance of bipartisan success, either this year or next, it must contain border security measures much stronger than the current law. What we are doing now just doesn't work. As a matter of national security, we absolutely must secure our borders.
We also must find a way for people who are here illegally to pay taxes and get right with the law. The legislation must create a program so businesses have the employees they need — such as a fair and efficiently run guest-worker program. In Texas we know firsthand that the only reliable measurement for knowing how many people we need here to take these jobs is the marketplace.
What we don't need is another czar, summit or federal agency that creates artificial limitations on supply and demand. To be successful, immigration legislation must be the product of a bipartisan effort and can't be written in the deep recesses of the AFL-CIO.
Our country will never build a wall tall enough or a ditch wide enough to keep a man from feeding his family. Finding a comprehensive solution to illegal immigration means that isn't our only answer. Unfortunately, the president seems to have other priorities.
Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was Majority Leader and Majority Whip.