White House Photo Coverage 2011

President Obama didn’t get into specifics in his State of the Union address on immigration reform this year, apparently not wanting to antagonize conservatives as House Republicans gather today in their annual retreat to consider Speaker John Boehner’s proposed “principles” for related legislation.

“I think it’s time to deal with it,” Boehner said this morning of immigration at the outset of the 232-member Republican caucus’s retreat in Cambridge, Md., “but how we deal with it is going to be critically important.”

Americans have reason to be wary, The Heritage Foundation’s Derrick Morgan told The Foundry, given the president’s selective enforcement of current law – and a well-funded campaign by business, labor and even religious groups to grant amnesty along the lines of the Obama-endorsed bill passed by the Senate last summer.

“Instead of amnesty, the House should consider how it can actually get President Obama to enforce existing laws,” said Morgan, Heritage’s vice president for domestic and economic policy.

Rather than repeat calls for amnesty for more than 10 million illegal immigrants – what he and fellow Democrats call “a path to citizenship” — Obama spoke briefly and generally Tuesday night about good results he said would be yielded if Congress would “fix our broken immigration system.”

“The president dedicated little time to immigration reform,” Morgan told The Foundry, “but his actions speak louder than words. For the second year in a row, he invited illegal immigrants to sit in the House chamber for the State of the Union speech, even as he continues to refuse to meet with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.”

“Given the president’s disregard for enforcing the law and changing the law without going back to Congress, as we’ve seen in the cases of Obamacare and federal drug laws,” Morgan added, “lawmakers and the public have no real reason to trust the president to uphold any new immigration laws.”

Most conservatives in the Republican caucus continue to show little interest in moving away from the House’s step-by-step approach of considering separate aspects of the immigration and border security puzzle – many of which require no new legislation — rather than combining them into one huge bill as the Senate did. However, Boehner, House Whip Kevin McCarthy (D-CA), and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WS) all have signaled their interest in moving one or more bills.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of  the Senate Budget Committee  who opposed the Senate bill, yesterday sent a memo and other materials to the offices of Boehner and all other  House Republicans designed to make the case that rushing to pass a major immigration bill is both bad policy and bad politics. Sessions writes at one point:

“House Republicans, in crafting immigration principles, should reply to the president’s immigration campaign with a simple message: our focus is to help unemployed Americans get back to work—not to grant amnesty or to answer the whims of immigration activists and CEOs. In turn, that message could be joined with a detailed and unifying policy agenda for accomplishing that moral and social objective.”


This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.