President Obama will “begin an all-out drive for comprehensive immigration reform, including seeking a path to citizenship” for 11 million undocumented immigrants, after Congress addresses the fiscal cliff, the Los Angeles Times reports. The revelation comes just as a top Hispanic Democrat, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), is calling on Obama to step-up his involvement on the issue and engage in discussions with lawmakers.
The Obama administration’s “social media blitz” will start in January and is expected “to tap the same organizations and unions that helped get a record number of Latino voters to reelect the president.” Cabinet secretaries and lawmakers from both parties are already holding initial meetings to iron out the details of the proposal:
Cabinet secretaries are preparing to make the case for how changes in immigration laws could benefit businesses, education, healthcare and public safety. Congressional committees could hold hearings on immigration legislation as soon as late January or early February. [...]
In conversations with congressional offices, White House officials have said the president would be “all in” on the issue and would want to push for a broad bill. But officials have not been specific about exactly how the president will use the bully pulpit or whether immigration will be a showpiece of the inaugural speech on Jan. 21 or the State of the Union address in early February. [...]
A bipartisan group of six senators met behind closed doors in the Capitol for 30 minutes on Tuesday night for what is expected to be the first of many meetings on how to get a version of the immigration bill through Congress. On the Republican side, the newly elected junior senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, joined longtime immigration reform advocates Graham and John McCain of Arizona for the talks. The Democrats were Schumer, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois.
During the presidential campaign, Obama identified the lack of immigration reform as his “biggest failure,” telling a Univision “Meet The Candidates” forum in September that “after the election … if they (the Republicans) have seen that people who care about this issue have turned out in strong numbers, that they will rethink it, if not because it’s the right thing to do, at least because it’s in their political interest to do so.”
Since Obama won 72 percent of the Hispanic vote in the November election, a growing number of Republicans have indeed softened their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform. Last month, the House GOP advanced a bill that would add visas for highly skilled workers while reducing legal immigration overall. The STEM Act expands the number of visas available to international students who earn masters and doctorates in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) fields at U.S. universities, while also cutting the Diversity Visa program and reducing the number of total visas available. The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have come out against the measure and have generally opposed some Republican efforts — led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to adopt piecemeal reforms.
Recently released census data found that the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally fell to 11.1 million, the first drop in a decade. For the first time since 1910, Asian immigrants now outnumber Hispanic immigrants.