President Barack Obama has been all about his power of the pen and phone recently – as promised in his State of the Union Address — changing wages for federal employees and requiring overtime pay, pushing efforts on manufacturing hubs, and creating five “promise zones.” However, in one area he’s taking a step back, capping the pen, cradling the phone, and looking meaningfully at Congress. That’s immigration.
“Comprehensive immigration reform requires action by Congress. The President is always interested in moving the ball forward on his agenda where he can, even if Congress refuses to act. But there are some things that require congressional action, and this is one of them,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week. For that reason, immigration reform isn’t likely to stem from the president this year. From the looks of the following key political factors, it’s not going to happen in Congress, either.
1. Much to Lose, Less to Gain
Politically, immigration is a divisive topic. It’s highly likely that regardless of what politicians do, someone within their votership — supporters, business backers, or parties — is going to be angry with them. Everyone from businesses to social justice interests can agree that America’s immigration system needs addressing. Everyone from Obama, to Jeb Bush, to Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) has discussed the urgency with which the subject demands attention. However, when staring down the barrel of an election vital to the balance of power on the left and right, one that’s bound to be tight in more than a few states, successful but controversial immigration reform is not the topic that incumbents want on their list of vulnerabilities. This is especially true for Republican congress members who represent state with high populations of voting immigrants, and slightly less true for Democrats, who will likely be hurt eventually by continued avoidance of the topic.