Obama promises new immigration plan but keeps endgame close to his vest

Obama also touted his new project to counter gun-violence. “Anybody who was up in Newtown, who talked to the parents, who talked to the families, understands that, you know, something fundamental in America has to change … you know, that was the worst day of my presidency,” he told Gregory.

“I will put forward a very specific [anti-violence] proposal based on the recommendations that Joe Biden’s task force is putting together as we speak,” he said.

De Posada argued that the House Speaker John Boehner should wait for Obama’s immigration bill before making a move on immigration. If it is too radical, he can force a vote and force Democratic legislators to vote for or against Obama’s bill.

During Bush’s term, for example, African-American Democrats kept a low profile on immigration, ensuring that the issue was not brought up for a vote in the House in 2007 and 2008.

“A bunch of Democrats are not going to be supportive,” de Posada predicted. That rejection would damage Obama’s standing among Latinos in the 2014 race, he said, and help GOP outreach.

De Posada said the GOP can win some sympathy among Latinos by pushing an ambitious bill that would welcome temporary migrant workers from across the United States’ southern border. In turn, that sympathy will ensure that Latinos actually listen to the GOP’s economic and social messages, he said.

However, various right-of-center immigration reformers are already trying to win passage of small-scale measures that don’t include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or invitations to new migrant workers.

The small-scale bills can help American workers and high-tech employers, and also split the various ethnic, ideological and business groups now pushing for easier immigration, say the reform advocates.

A comprehensive bill “will not pass, just as it didn’t last time around [and if Obama] were actually serious, he would agree to a piecemeal approach where each piece could garner sufficient support to pass,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations at NumbersUSA, an immigration-reform group.

Progressives such as Gutierrez oppose the small-scale measures, and instead seek to maximize the immigration of Democratic-leaning groups, including Hispanics.

In September, the right-of-center reformers pushed for a small-scale bill that would convert 50,000 so-called “Diversity Visas” into a program that would bring high-IQ tech experts into the country. That program does not currently consider potential immigrants’ skills, and instead awards visas to people from countries with few immigrants already in the United States.

However, Gutierrez and other progressives defeated the measure in a House vote. “If you support this bill, you are saying that one group of immigrants is better than another and one type of educated, degree-holding person and their work is more important than others,” Gutierrez declared Nov. 30.

“They are saying my father — and I resent it — my father was too stupid to make it, but he put two kids through college and one in the House of Representatives,” said Gutierrez, who chairs the immigration task force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.