President Obama plans major push for immigration reform, with amnesty possible

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 8:22 EDT
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President Barack Obama will announce Tuesday during a speech near the U.S. border that he plans a fresh push for immigration policy reform ahead of the 2012 election, calling for a legislative solution that comes from Congress instead of his desk alone.

The White House and other officials will promote the debate by staging a series of community town halls to raise the debate’s profile in the media and bring in more voices than just the president’s, Raw Story has learned.

The town halls will be modeled similarly to the community debates that took place during the president’s push for health reform.

The president and supportive officials are expected to lean heavily on an economic argument for immigration reform: turning the earners of illegal incomes into law-abiding taxpayers, which is seen by some economists as a potentially powerful economic driver. Some critics call this approach to immigration reform “amnesty,” but administration officials are likely to shy away from that term due to its political implications.

They will also emphasize that the Obama administration is and has been more committed to border security and law enforcement than the prior administration.

Recent polling (PDF) has shown that about three in four Americans support creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that does not require their deportation.

It was unclear if any of the legislative proposals would mirror those contained in the DREAM Act, which failed to clear Congress last year. President Obama and many key Democrats were vocal supporters of the proposal, which would have provided a path to citizenship for students who came to the U.S. illegally as children. It was passed by the House of Representatives as part of a budget appropriation, but failed in the Senate due to a Republican filibuster.

It was also unclear whether the president would put forward specific legislative proposals during a speech Tuesday in El Paso, Texas.

Critics of Democratic proposals for immigration reform have suggested that if the president were to take unilateral action on some reforms, it could become a significant political minefield. To the contrary, others suggest the immigration reform push could be a powerful magnet for the president in the run-up to his reelection campaign, which is already underway.

Image credit: Flickr commons

Updated from an original version for clarity.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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