Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech at the United States-Mexico border that focused on the potential benefits of immigration reform. Commentators have reported that it was meant to win back the support of Hispanics, who could mean the difference between getting re-elected or not in next year's election.
The President said that immigration reform is needed to do away with what has turned into an "underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for everybody else." He said immigrants, businesses and members of the middle class would all benefit from the reform.
Additionally, the President said that immigration reform would lead to heightened national security. He said that the efforts his administration had made with border control have already been successful, particularly the bill that he signed in August that hired 1,500 border patrol agents, customs inspectors and law enforcement officials.
However, President Obama did not have any specific policy goals or timeframes for any expansive immigration legislation to be introduced. Therefore, it appears that there will not be any major reform before the next presidential election in 2012.
President Obama also spoke critical of Republicans, who he said were responsible for the lack of action on behalf of Congress in fixing the immigration problems, and called for bipartisan collaboration on the issue.
The Hispanic population will be a very important demographic in the 2012 presidential election, commentators say, as the group is now the fastest growing minority in the United States. There are currently 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States, and, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics voted for Obama two-to-one in the 2008 election.
Source: Reuters, "Obama stresses immigration benefits at Mexico border," Patricia Zengerle, 5/10/2011.