Immigration bill advocates miffed at Obama speech 

Immigration Works, the pro-comprehensive immigration bill group headed by the indefatigable Tamar Jacoby, hailed Barack Obama’s speech today, but then had some sharp words for the president:

“But unfortunately the president got several critical things wrong.

“For one thing, he didn’t mention the element of reform most important to most U.S. employers and the U.S. economy: visas for unskilled non-farm workers to come to the U.S. legally in future years. The economic downturn has done nothing to change the fundamental educational and demographic trends that make foreign workers an essential ingredient of American prosperity. Less-skilled manpower and global talent alike are needed by the American economy even today – and both will play an essential role in the nation’s recovery.

“Equally troubling, the president is still scolding and blaming Republicans rather than appealing to them in terms that might draw them into a serious effort to compromise on a bill.

“The fact is moderate Democrats are just as hesitant as Republicans to take up immigration before the midterm elections – so much so that if comprehensive reform were introduced today, it would not win majority support in either the House or the Senate.

“The president got one thing right: what’s needed is a balanced, bipartisan compromise that shuns the extreme positions on both sides of the debate. If the White House is serious about moving reform, it needs to start working now to build that centrist consensus.

“That means reaching out seriously to Republicans, not shaming them. And it means addressing the 60 percent of Americans who support Arizona’s new enforcement law, SB 1070 – listening closely to them and framing reform in terms they can get behind. Today’s speech was encouraging for reform advocates, but it won’t do much to appeal to Americans who are still skeptical.”

There’s no doubt that about the sincerity of Jacoby, who has devoted years of her life to this cause. Her organization is too politic to put it so bluntly, but the only way I can interpret these words is that her group sees Obama using the issue for political gain rather than working the issue for positive legislation.

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