Politics
US President Barack Obama addresses the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) annual conference in Washington, DC, July 25, 2011.     AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) US President Barack Obama addresses the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) annual conference in Washington, DC, July 25, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)  

Obama floats ambitious immigration bill, stops short of simple ‘amnesty’ promise

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

So-called “guest worker” programs are especially contentious, because they allow companies to keep wages low by importing low-wage workers when Americans decline to take low-paying jobs.

In 2007, for example, then-Senator Obama was part of a one-vote majority that amended a pending immigration bill with a five-year limit on a “guest worker” program. Obama’s vote came shortly after he had voted to expand the that program by allowing foreign workers to stay until they were removed by a court.

The amendment’s one-vote majority upset other deals among Senators and helped kill the overall bill.

This year some critics and supporters of additional immigration are skeptical that Obama will risk a big battle to push for his agenda.

Instead, he may be trying to generate added Hispanic support for the 2014 mid-term elections,

“The word that I’ve heard from many, is [that he will] submit a very, very liberal plan that most Republicans will not support, that most southern and moderate Democrats will not support,” Robert de Posada, former head of the GOP-affiliated Latino Coalition, told The Daily Caller in December. (RELATED: Obama promises new immigration plan but keeps endgame close to his vest)

When the bill fails, “they can announce once again that they tried [and that Latinos] need to rally in the next election,” said Posada, who supports a bill that would provide citizenship to illegals.

De Posada helped President George W. Bush win 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, during the housing boom.

His view, that an ambitious bill will be more difficult to pass, was echoed by administration officials cited in the Times article on Saturday.

“Obama and Senate Democrats will propose the changes in one comprehensive bill, the officials said, resisting efforts by some Republicans to break the overhaul into smaller pieces — separately addressing young illegal immigrants, migrant farmworkers or highly skilled foreigners — which might be easier for reluctant members of their party to accept,” the Times reported.

The article cited only one critic of the bill, Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey.

Gingrey said he opposed “amnesty of any kind,” and that he would “continue working to secure our borders and enforce existing immigration law.”

Critics say large-scale immigration of unskilled workers and their families increases unemployment and boosts public support for the Democrats’ big-government policies.

Instead, they’re calling for a series of modest reforms that would spur demand for U.S. workers, reduce employment and increase support for the GOP’s small-government policies.

‘The idea of a grand settlement to the immigration issue is a mistake … we need confidence-building measures between our bipartisan pro-amnesty elites, on the one hand, and the public, on the other,” said Mark Krikorian, the director of an immigration reform group, the Center for Immigration Studies.

A better option, he said, would be passage of a bill that provides a conditional amnesty for people brought in the country as children, in exchange for laws penalizing companies that hire illegals. That trade would “represent a real step forward but a small enough one that each side could judge the other’s subsequent performance and see if they want to continue,” he said.

GOP representatives, including Gingrey and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, have pushed alternative approaches such as the STEM bill, which would boost immigration among job-creating, skilled professionals, while trimming immigration of low-skill workers.

In a November vote, however, Democrats opposed the STEM bill because it would end the so-called “Diversity Lottery,” which annually grants 55,000 visas to would-be immigrants regardless of skills.

The STEM bill was supported by high-tech companies in Silicon Valley.

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