President Obama will undoubtedly deliver one heck of a speech that will stir deep emotion. But, when it comes to immigration, the President’s soaring rhetoric does not match his record.
Back in 2008, Mr. Obama promised immigration reform in his first year in office. But, as we now know, he failed to keep that promise. In 2009 and 2010, President Obama yielded to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to bypass immigration reform in favor of passing global warming legislation. He also complied with Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidClassified briefings to begin for Clinton, Trump The Trail 2016: Her big night Reid: Trump 'may have' broken the law with Russia remarks MORE's decision not to bring an immigration bill to the floor.
Mr. Obama’s lack of leadership on immigration reform dates to his days in the U.S. Senate. Flash back to 2007. Bipartisan immigration reform was gaining momentum in the U.S. Senate. Republican President George W. Bush had made reform a cornerstone of his domestic agenda and he lobbied hard for improvements to the law. A compromise bill in the Senate called for the biggest changes to immigration law in more than 20 years, offering legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants while also securing the nation’s borders.
Back then, a broad bipartisan coalition of Senators came together to fight for reform. The bill’s prospects were good until a number of controversial amendments sunk the measure with the help of then-Senator Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama the 'X' factor of the 2016 cycle How did Hillary Clinton do? Pundits react to speech FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton closes out Democratic convention MORE. You see, Senator Obama had begun his presidential campaign. He knew that that in order to secure his party’s nomination, he would need the support of traditional liberal constituencies aka organized labor.
Five years ago, it was the AFL-CIO and other unions that helped ensure the defeat of the bipartisan immigration reform bill. Union bosses were afraid that the bill’s temporary guest worker program would weaken union membership and bargaining power.
An improved guest worker program makes sense from both an economic and national security perspective. Allowing and tracking workers who come here for a limited amount of time to fill jobs that Americans do not want will help keep the economy moving, while providing Americans goods and services.
Regardless of the good sense of such a program, now that the possibility of immigration reform is back, the president has once again turned to his union friends for their advice. He brought them together at the White House on February 6th. In fact, one could argue that a large part of the reason that the President fails to mention a guest worker program when he talks about immigration reform is because he does not want to anger the unions.
The good news is that support for immigration reform is growing. One of the most encouraging signs is that among those pushing for a real reform are some prominent conservatives.
Prominent and popular conservatives, from Florida Senator Marco RubioMarco RubioFlorida: 'High likelihood' of first Zika transmission in the US Overnight Healthcare: Rubio presses Obama to spend Zika money | FDA moves ahead with trans fat ban The Trail 2016: Her big night MORE to former vice presidential candidate Paul RyanPaul RyanClassified briefings to begin for Clinton, Trump Paul Ryan rewrites 50 years of poverty history Peter Thiel does not make the GOP pro-gay MORE, are vocal about the need to move toward reform. Conservative Christian organizations as well as broadcast personalities like Sean Hannity are pushing for steps toward reform. There are already a number of proposals that enjoy bipartisan support.
It is truly exciting to see Hill conservatives taking a leadership role in achieving a real reform of our broken immigration system - one that is fair, efficient, and enduring.
When it comes to immigration, President Obama is all talk and no action. The State of the Union will likely offer us no more than another campaign speech. Capitol Hill is where the leadership is going to come from on immigration reform, and conservatives will be front and center during that process. The campaign is over, Mr. President. It is time to work with Congress on the business of governing.
Marin served as the 41st U.S. Treasurer under President George W. Bush. She is the author of "Leading Between Two Worlds Lessons" from the first Mexican-born Treasurer of the United States.