#SOTU: Immigration Reform
This post is part of a series on the RAC’s expectations and hopes for President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 28th.
Immigration reform is one of the Reform Movement’s—and President Obama’s—key legislative priorities this year. It is still unclear to what extent the President will discuss the topic during his State of the Union address tonight, but we hope that he takes the time to fully focus on this vital moral, political and economic issue.
Last year, in his 2013 State of the Union, President Obama declared that, “leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities, they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.” But a year after the President last addressed Congress, we still have a long way to go towards achieving immigration reform. While the Senate passed a strong bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill in June, the House of Representatives has yet to take up any substantive legislation on the matter, and House leaders have explicitly ruled out the possibility of taking up the Senate bill.
Still, there are reasons to be optimistic. This week, House leaders are expected to introduce a long-expected series of “principles” on immigration reform, which will ultimately be translated into multiple, piecemeal bills. Unlike the comprehensive Senate bill, the House approach will likely be separate bills for border security, visa reforms, the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants here now, and other issues. Given this uncertainty, the House’s path forward nonetheless remains unclear.
As a result, we don’t yet know how the President will address immigration tonight. The release of the principles might pre-empt whatever the President has to say on the issue—and it seems that many believe there could be some kind of compromise in the works, so he may not want to criticize House leadership, in the hopes of making a deal soon.
But this issue is a vital moral one—as Jews, we remember our obligation to welcome the stranger in our midst. Jewish organizations around D.C. have made immigration reform one of their top priorities this year. And the State of the Union address is a unique pulpit—the President has the opportunity tonight to highlight key issues, to pressure lawmakers and to ensure that the American public knows where he stands. That is why the President should address immigration reform, in detail—by urging the House to pass a Senate-like bill that provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of society, and also addresses key issues like family unity, border security and visa system reforms. We hope he does.
Call on your Members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and tell us, if you were President, what would you talk about in your State of the Union?