Immigration reform seemed to have new life breathed into it almost overnight in 2013. With major Republican names such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) changing their previous positions to support a bi-partisan immigration overhaul effort that includes a road to citizenship, the reality of a comprehensive plan appears more likely than ever.
The president’s sharp tack to the right in his State of the Union, expressing support for fines, border security, and mandatory English language proficiency, suggests that there is a plan being crafted behind closed doors and its probably one the left isn’t going to love. More importantly, it indicates that the president intends to let Congress bring this one home.
While such a passive approach is sure to draw fire from his left flank, Obama realizes that the best shot at getting anything resembling meaningful immigration reform through Congress requires that he let Republicans position themselves to take political credit for the final bill.
The president’s stamp of approval on any piece of legislation is anathema to many Republicans, particularly in the House. However, the same exact law helmed by Rubio or McCain has an infinitely better chance of securing passage. Endorsements of the need for immigration reform from both Republican responses following the State of the Union only acts as further proof that there is a deal in the works.
While they aren’t going to get everything they want, supporters of immigration reform should be heartened by Obama’s lean to the right on immigration – it means that there are very real stirrings of life in an otherwise long-dead subject.
See the biggest take-aways from Obama's 2013 State of the Union speech here.