President Barack Obama today made his first major speech on immigration reform, decrying the lack of Republican interest.
From the text posted by the Wall Street Journal:
“Just a few years ago, when I was a senator, we forged a bipartisan coalition in favor of comprehensive reform. Under the leadership of Senator Kennedy, who had been a longtime champion of immigration reform, and Senator John McCain, we worked across the aisle to help pass a bipartisan bill through the Senate. But that effort eventually came apart. And now, under the pressures of partisanship and election-year politics, many of the 11 Republican senators who [worked toward] reform in the past have now backed away from their previous support.”
Obama didn’t call them out by name, but one presumes that the 11 GOP senators include Georgia’s Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss – who endured a deal of criticism from Republican grassroots three years ago. Obama continued:
“Into this breach, states like Arizona have decided to take matters into their own hands. Given the levels of frustration across the country, this is understandable. But it is also ill conceived. And it’s not just that the law Arizona passed is divisive -– although it has fanned the flames of an already contentious debate.
“Laws like Arizona’s put huge pressures on local law enforcement to enforce rules that ultimately are unenforceable. It puts pressure on already hard-strapped state and local budgets. It makes it difficult for people here illegally to report crimes -– driving a wedge between communities and law enforcement, making our streets more dangerous and the jobs of our police officers more difficult.”
According to the Associated Press:
Obama has endorsed a proposal by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would require illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law, pay fines and back taxes and perform community service to eventually obtain legal status. But Graham since has balked at acting on immigration this year, and no other Senate Republican has come forward.
Most reaction to the speech could be called predictable. But Republican politicians in Georgia might want to pay attention to a formal statement from Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
He’s basically the top Southern Baptist lobby in Washington, and a major voice of conservative Christians. Said Land, according to Politico:
“President Obama laid out the elements for an immigration policy that will mend the social fabric of our nation…The President has acted like a statesman, not a politician. Statesmen are concerned with the next generation, politicians are concerned with the next election. It’s time for Congress to step up and be statesmen.”
In essence, one of the most influential evangelicals in the country has placed a limit on rhetoric in the debate to come.