Sunday, January 18, 2009

Obama Immigration Plans Could Disrupt State Legislation

A few Indiana lawmakers are again trying to crack down on Indiana's undocumented workers by penalizing employers who break the law by hiring them as the Star reports this morning. These legislative efforts, even if successful, would be undermined in a big way if President-elect Barack Obama delivers on the promises he made to Hispanic groups. Obama supports McCain-Kennedy, the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform proposal which would provide a path to legalization for many of America's undocumented workers and their families.

In the last Congress, Obama weighted down the proposal in the last Congress with a worker visa amendment, which effectively led to its defeat. That was part of a Democratic strategy to make sure the legislation didn't pass under President Bush and allow Republicans to take credit, thereby boosting their standing among the country's fast-growing Hispanic population and aiding its key author, Sen. John McCain. It worked beautifully, as Obama erased the gains President Bush made among Hispanic voters in the past two elections to eke out his narrow wins. The additional support Obama gained among Hispanic voters was enough to flip the key red states he turned blue in last year's election.

Obama has nominated Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to run the Department of Homeland Security. Ironically, Arizona is one of those states which passed legislation like that being proposed in Indiana despite its large Hispanic population. That led to the exodus of many undocumented workers and their families to other more hospitable states like Texas. Napolitano supported McCain-Kennedy even as she supported efforts in her own state to go after undocumented workers by penalizing employers. Napolitano talked tough during her confirmation hearing, pledging to go after employers. "You have deal with what is drawing people across the border, and that is a job," she said. Nonetheless, that rhetoric clashes with the views taken by the new president.

Obama's plans to legalize tens of millions of undocumented aliens, however, will likely clash with his organized labor supporters. With the economy tanking and growing unemployment, labor will push back against any efforts to make it easier for the undocumented to find jobs in the U.S. Confronting this issue could prove to be one of the biggest challenges he faces in his first year in office. Both Hispanics and organized labor contributed heavily to Obama's win. Obama could throw a quick bone to labor with the quick passage and signing of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would essentially do away with elections to organize union workforces; however, early signs are that no quick action on that controversial legislation will occur in the early days of his administration.

After comprehensive immigration reform lost in the last Congress, the Bush administration stepped up enforcement efforts, including a requirement that employers fire workers with "no match" letters (i.e. social security number doesn't match the employee's name) and began conducting more raids on businesses known to employ undocumented workers. Some think Obama may relax Bush enforcement rules instead of pushing for comprehensive immigration reform early on, pushing that back to a later date in his first term. Some of those rules are being challenged in the courts. Congress will also have to reauthorize E-Verify, the federal database which helps employers check the status of employees to ascertain whether they can work in the U.S. legally.

Watching Obama deal with this delicate issue in tough economic times will be interesting. It's going to take some fancy dance steps to avoid alienating key constituencies. One of his first tests is whether he will enforce the law and deport his aunt from this country. She ignored an earlier deportation order after her application for asylum was turned down. She has been living in a public housing project in Boston for the past several years. Although Obama professed ignorance of her status during the campaign, it is highly doubtful he wasn't aware of her status and had not written letters of support on her behalf, likely on his U.S. Senate letterhead. The aunt attended his swearing-in ceremony as a U.S. Senator. Will she attend his inauguration? Or is she still in hiding?


Ted said...

The question is not IF there will be an interdiction of Obama’s Presidency by the Supreme Court, the questions are WHEN and HOW that interdiction will transpire — that is, if the USA is to continue as the Constitutional Republic that now exists.

artfuggins said...

There are always people looking for ways to abridge the rights and lives of others......I wonder when it will stop.