President Barack Obama’s legislative and lobbying campaign to reform the immigration system is rapidly collapsing into a 2014 campaign theme to preserve Democratic power in Congress.
Obama promised to continue to push Republicans to pass an immigration bill, but said that more Democrats in the House would jump-start his efforts.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that the House of Representatives does the right thing, that we no longer have one extreme faction that is blocking what the majority of the American people want to see happen with comprehensive immigration reform,” he told wealthy donors attending a Wednesday fundraiser in Weston, Mass.
“But it would be a whole lot easier if Democrats vote in the midterms,” he said.
GOP primary voters in Virginia retired House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday, likely ending any chance for Obama get his immigration rewrite through Congress.
That was his top legislative priority for the year, but it’s becoming just one of his tools in the 2014 campaign, where he needs to goose support among Latinos — and also Asians.
Without their support, he’s more likely to lose critical Senate seats in Colorado and North Carolina, maybe in Virginia and Arkansas.
For more than a year, Obama has pushed for House passage of the Senate’s immigration bill that would double the annual inflow of guest workers and immigrants up to roughly four million. That’s roughly one guest worker or immigrant for every one of the four million Americans who turn 18 each year. It would also boost spending on border security and implement a national E-Verify system.
But he’s undermined his legislative strategy by selectively enforcing laws and rules for immigration, Obamacare, energy and other areas. That selective enforcement has given GOP legislators an excuse to reject his demand for the immigration bill without creating an open disagreement with business leaders.
For example, Obama is allowing a wave of poor Central American parents to bring their children into the United States. Agency officials say his policy is may result in 90,000 children from Central Ameica crossing the border by October in the hope of winning official permission for them and their families to live in the United States.
So far, GOP leaders have blocked the Senate bill, even while repeatedly claiming they want to make a deal.
Obama, however, is eager to blame a myriad bad motivations on the many GOP legislators who oppose his efforts to boost immigration.
“If you think that because of politics you want to maintain a status quo that’s broken; because of politics we’re going to forego the economic growth and the deficit reduction, and the border security, and the fairness and the opportunity that immigration reform represents — you don’t belong in Washington,” he told his donors.
In exchange for their donations, Obama’s offered the donors a chance to feel good about helping legal and illegal immigrants attending a nearby school.
“They’re children of immigrants. … They are as American as apple pie,” he said.
But some of the students, he suggested, are illegal immigrants who need to be loved by the U.S. government.
“A whole bunch of them — they’re worried about whether or not they’re going to be able to finance their college education. … They’re worried about whether, in fact, this country that they love so deeply loves them back and understands that our future rests on their success,” he said.
“Why wouldn’t we want to give them that certainty that you are part of the fabric of this nation, we’re counting on you, and we’re going to make sure you succeed? Why wouldn’t we want to do that?” he said.
But Obama also reassured his donors that he would still try to win a legislative victory by prodding House Speaker John Boehner to OK the Senate’s bill.
After Cantor’s defeat, “the politics of immigration reform seem impossible now,” he said.
But “I fundamentally reject that,” he told his donors. “And I will tell the speaker of the House that he needs to reject that,” he said.