Obama Blasts Arizona Immigration Bill

Friday, 23 Apr 2010 12:18 PM

By Dan Weil

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President Obama has called a pro-security immigration bill passed by Arizona’s legislature “misguided” and urged Congress to pass its own immigration plan instead.

The Arizona bill, currently awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, requires state law enforcement officials to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally.

That would mean Arizona police have the strongest authority in the nation to investigate the status of suspected illegal immigrants, according to The Washington Post.

Obama, speaking at a Rose Garden ceremony to naturalize 24 U.S. military personnel, said he has instructed his staff to "closely monitor the situation" to make sure the Arizona measure doesn’t violate people's civil liberties.

Obama isn’t the only Democrat pressing for action on immigration. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nev., has pushed the issue to the top of the spring agenda for Congress, ahead of an energy bill.

He sees bipartisan efforts for a bill as stalled. So he told Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to craft a deal in three weeks or Democrats will push their own bill, aides and lobbyists told The Post.

The aides said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is on board to hold a vote before November elections, if the Senate passes a bill.

The real issue for Democrats may be political. Even if their bill goes nowhere, a Congressional debate over immigration could inspire their base, particularly Hispanic voters.

In recent weeks, key Democratic supporters, including Latino groups, labor unions and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have dialed up their demands that Obama and Reid address the immigration issue.

Obama promised in the 2008 election to implement immigration reform, and Reid made the same commitment to supporters in his heavily Hispanic heavy state, where he faces a difficult contest for re-election.

Republicans are ready for a fight with Democrats over the issue.

At a time when one in 10 Americans are unemployed, "There is little enthusiasm in Congress to pass legislation that would legalize millions of unlawful residents to compete with out-of-work Americans for needed jobs," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

"One has to ask: are members raising the idea of comprehensive reform now because they believe the majority of Americans truly want it, or because it serves a specific political purpose in a tough election year?"

Sessions isn't the only one who thinks the Democrats have their priorities wrong.

"The problem Obama has is that any time he is not talking about jobs, he's on the wrong topic," Republican pollster David Winston told The Washington Examiner.

"And trying to bring up particularly divisive issues, like immigration, at this point makes the situation worse."

Graham’s support for the measure he co-sponsored with Schumer has cooled. The bill would beef up border security, punish employers who exploit illegal workers and establish a road map for legalization or expulsion of about 12 million illegal immigrants.

Instead, Graham has said his top priority is an energy and climate bill, and he has lambasted the White House for failing to work for passage of the Schumer-Graham bill.

Immigration advocates say Graham's position makes it less likely that the Senate will pass an immigration bill.

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