President Obama recently inflamed passions on both sides of the immigration debate with a pre-election day appearance on the Univision radio show hosted by the enormously popular Eddie “El Piolin” Sotelo.
At one point, Sotelo questioned Obama’s commitment to immigration reform and offered that as a possible explanation for why the president hasn’t kept his promise to make it a top priority in his administration. The president took the easy way out and simply returned to the Democratic playbook of blaming the GOP. Obama tried to convince the show’s listeners that, even though Democrats control both houses in Congress (for now), they are nonetheless powerless to move the needle on immigration reform without the support of Republicans.
That’s ridiculous. Democrats have the capability to do much more than they’ve done, but the reason they won’t do more is because passing immigration reform as it is commonly discussed — i.e., with a guest worker component — is unacceptable to a powerful constituency that Democrats won’t challenge under any circumstance: organized labor.
Besides, if Obama wants to tell the story of the immigration reform debate, he should at least tell it right. He seems to have forgotten that, while serving in the Senate during the 2006 debate over immigration reform, he himself proposed “poison pill” amendments intended to kill bipartisan legislation.
The following year, the Senate debated the exceptionally well-crafted Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. One of the chief architects of the bill was Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, and the legislation had a half dozen Republican sponsors. During the debate, Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, proposed an amendment that would have stripped away the language calling for illegal immigrants to be given visas so they could remain in the country legally. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 29 to 66; those casting the “no” votes included 26 Republicans.
Still, in the world according to Obama, the GOP is always to blame. And it’s up to Latino voters to, as he told Sotelo, punish their enemies and reward their friends.
But luckily, the host didn’t let Obama pass the buck to the GOP. Sotelo reminded the president that he was able to pass health care reform because he put his shoulder to the wheel and made it happen. Why can’t Obama do that with immigration reform, Sotelo wanted to know.