WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s speech urging passage of a bill to increase immigration quickly turned into a rally for the 2014 midterm elections, and also for Vice President Joe Biden’s potential 2016 bid.
“It’s up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not,” he insisted, before a bank of cameras for Spanish-language TV stations that reach Latino voters.
“We’ve got the time to do it. … Keep putting the pressure on all of us to get this done,” he declared in the East Room speech.
He dismissed numerous media reports about growing GOP opposition to any immigration-related negotiations with Obama. “The press will declare something dead, [that] ‘It’s not going to happen,’ but that can be overcome,” he said.
He quickly moved into campaign mode. “I want you to keep working, and I’m going to be right next to you to make sure we get immigration reform done,” Obama declared, while almost shouting in the same style he used during the final stages of the 2012 campaign.
In June 2012, Obama boosted his re-election campaign by unilaterally approving a mini-amnesty for younger immigrants. Today’s rally was broadcast to Latino audiences, eve as much of the media was focused a congressional hearing into the crippled rollout of Obamacare.
Throughout Obama’s rally, Biden stood beside him. The vice president’s participation may be a bid to win progressive votes during the 2016 Democratic nomination process.
To his mostly Latino audience, Obama called for passage of the Senate’s immigration bill, which would bring in one new working-age immigrant and one new guest worker for every two Americans who turn 18. Overall, the bill passed by the Senate in June would provide green cards to 33 million immigrants over the next 10 years.
He repeatedly slammed the GOP. In Washington, he complained, immigration “tends to be viewed through a political prism.”
Some Republicans are opposed to Senate bill, he claimed, because they’re thinking “if Obama is for it, then I’m against it.”
“But I’d remind everybody that my Republican predecessor [President George W. Bush] was also for it,” he said.
He also claimed the immigration push is popular. “The American people support this — it’s not something they reject, they support it,” he said.
But numerous polls show the public is opposed to an increased inflow of workers, during a period of accelerating automation, declining wages and high unemployment.
Obama tried to portray himself as a bipartisan moderate. For example, he invited the GOP to help improve the Senate bill. “If House Republicans have new and different, additional ideas for how we should move forward, then we want hear them. I’ll be listening,” he said.
But he also dismissed any public or GOP objections to the immigration bill. “If there’s a good reason not to pass this common-sense reform, I’ve yet to hear it,” he insisted.
Passage of the immigration bill is a high priority for Obama. On Oct. 23, for example, The Hill newspaper quoted a senior administration official who said Obama would prefer an immigration rewrite to a 2014 majority in the House.
“Given the choice, if we could only have one, he’d rather have immigration reform,” said the official.
The bill is also backed by business and agriculture groups, who want the increased inflow of customers and low-wage workers. The increased inflow is also very popular among journalists, who describe it as a “civil rights movement.”