The NY Times report that President Obama is planning to address immigration reform this year is pretty surprising. And by surprising I don’t mean that it’s unexpected that Obama would support legalizing illegal immigrants, but that he would risk a backlash on such a passionate issue that could seriously hinder is ability to achieve other aspects of his agenda. With unemployment at 8.5 percent, Republicans more likely to oppose a path to legalization now that a Democrat is president, and with Democrats having gained seats in a lot of conservative districts by talking tough on immigration, the political environment does not seem conducive to legalizing millions of illegal immigrants. So, I see a few possibilities:
— Perhaps President Obama sincerely wants to get this done.
–Perhaps he doesn’t think it’s possible he could overreach and trigger a backlash.
— Perhaps he doesn’t really plan on pushing this hard, but wants to make some noise on the issue to reassure restive Hispanic groups that immigration reform is still a priority for him.
— Perhaps he’s really clever and realizes that as long as the prospect of amnesty is in the air, conservatives will be focused 24/7 on that issue, and this will distract the right from fighting him on other issues more central to his agenda like health care, energy, and education.
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