by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org
President Obama will be in Texas tomorrow. He’s scheduled to first stop in El Paso to deliver a speech focusing on immigration – a conversation that almost always brings about confrontation. So far, Obama’s argument has been directed at those who care about this issue, saying they need to increase the pressure they place on Congress to act.
Obama’s trip to Texas comes after three weeks of White House gatherings to get input from mayors, lawmakers and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Immigration advocates say the president has laid the groundwork for reform, which would lead to more secure borders.
But while many activists blame the White House for not making the issue more of a priority, members of both parties oppose Mr. Obama’s proposed measures to create a path to citizenship for some people who entered the country illegally, saying it would reward law-breaking. Republicans criticize Obama’s overture about tackling the longstanding problem.They insist not enough has been done to secure the border with Mexico. For instance, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said that, until the border with Mexico is secure and free of violence, immigration reform cannot occur and should not be a priority.
In response, the White House says it has put more “boots on the ground” along the southwest border than ever before and has cracked down on employers who hire undocumented workers. Obama administration officials contend the U.S.-Mexico border is more secure than at any time in history, despite the raging war being waged by narcotics cartels just across the Rio Grande.
The Border Patrol has increased to 20,700 agents, more than double the number of agents in 2004. As a result, the administration deported a record number of illegal immigrants last year, a point that has angered many Latinos. Federal officials say deportations of illegal immigrants hit a record 392,000 in fiscal year 2010.
Some advocates of an immigration bill aren’t on board the White House’s new push. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) said Friday that he won’t raise expectation in the Latino community that immigration legislation will pass when it won’t.
“The moment to use pressure is gone,” he said. “I’m not going to be disingenuous with the public…It’s not going to happen.”
Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), who opposes Mr. Obama’s stance on legislation, also saw no signs of movement in Congress. “President Obama’s push to legalize millions of illegal immigrants is purely political,” he said. “The president wasn’t able to pass his version of immigration reform when he had large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate because of bipartisan opposition. It is unlikely he will succeed anytime soon.”
Our hope is that the president will move forward with a broad agenda to stop deportations and enable law-abiding people to become citizens. The number of illegal immigrants in the country is estimated at 11 million by the Pew Hispanic Center. In Texas, the roughly 1.6 million unauthorized resident immigrants represent about 6.5 percent of the state’s population.
And while there are countless initiatives on how immigrants should be dealt with, the solutions thesemlves are more elusive. Let’s hope the president makes substantial contributions to the debate–and more importantly, upcoming legislative action–in El Paso.