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Time for Obama to Put Up or Shut Up on Immigration

Obama is good at making speeches about immigration, but when will he stop blaming the Republicans for obstructing reform and get something done?

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

July 16, 2010 - 12:00 am
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President Obama has never taken my counsel about how to proceed in pursuit of comprehensive immigration reform, and I don’t expect him to start now.

It’s obvious that he doesn’t care about the issue beyond whatever political gain he can soak from it at any given time. And besides, he finds it just as easy to identify with those Americans — especially African-Americans — who feel displaced by illegal immigrants as he does with those who feel that illegal immigrants should have a pathway to earned legal status.

Nonetheless, I’ll offer this final piece of advice: “Either work with Congress to set timelines, outline priorities, and pass immigration reform sooner rather than later, or go on your way. But, for heaven’s sake, stop talking about it!”

Obama must think he is doing himself and fellow Democrats some good with Latino voters by, every few months, promising to deliver comprehensive immigration reform and portraying Republicans in Congress as the main impediment. The president followed that script again during a recent speech at American University in Washington, D.C., a major address on immigration reform that angered the right, disappointed the left, and left both sides unsatisfied.

The problem wasn’t the speech. Obama said the right things. He emphasized our nation’s proud immigrant tradition, and didn’t sidestep the racism and ethnocentrism that have plagued the immigration debate since German immigrants first arrived in the mid 1770s and were greeted with suspicion and hostility by the English settlers who were already here.

The problem was the person giving the speech. At the end of the soaring rhetoric, as is often the case with an Obama speech, there was no specific plan or call to action. And that’s unfortunate because, on this issue more than most, bold and decisive action is exactly what we need.

The best part was when Obama staked out the middle ground in a debate that doesn’t leave much of that for anyone to claim. He is correct that those on the left who want a blanket, condition-free amnesty and open borders are wrong. Just as he is correct that those on the right who think enforcement measures alone can solve this problem and that we can deport 12 million people are also wrong.

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