Immigration may prove a winning issue for Obama

People walk around behind a metal fence in Laredo, Texas President Obama's plan has many things in common with the Senate framework

Related Stories

Here, in the border town of Laredo, Texas, President Barack Obama's speech calling for immigration reform will matter.

So will the delicate political calculations made by Republican and Democratic politicians who are seeking votes by seeking change.

It is quite a thrill to be here, hoping to catch a glimpse of Captain Call from Larry McMurty's novel Streets of Laredo, or the doomed cowboy of the Johnny Cash song.

No such luck, but it is an atmospheric place.

The real streets of Laredo do indeed feel like a slice of the old West, slightly battered and dusty, and it is also clearly a border town, with all the shop names in Spanish and the people on the streets overwhelmingly Hispanic.

Shadow boxing

There is a long, covered bridge across the Rio Grande with high bars running up the side, making it look a little like a prison.

There is a big queue as lines of people dutifully wait to show their papers and cross into the much richer country.

But this is just a tiny part of the border between Mexico and the US that stretches for nearly 2,000 miles (3,220km).

Over the years many have broken the law and crossed it without papers - there are said to be 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.

It will matter not just because there are probably quite a few people who do not have the right papers and who would like to become Americans.

Two men sit on a bench in Laredo, Texas Some Republicans fear the party might lose Latino support forever

It will matter because many Latino citizens judge politicians on how they treat their illegal cousins and friends.

By declaring that "the time is now" for change, the president has picked the one cause where there is some possible room for agreement with Republicans, eager to court the fastest growing ethnic group in America.

President Obama all but endorsed the plan already put together by senators of both parties.

In particular, he agreed that illegal immigrants had to pay fines, back-taxes and go to the end of the queue to become citizens.

It may be tough enough to not be described as "amnesty". Many conservatives regard that as rewarding criminality and luring more to breach American borders illegally.

Republicans like Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Arizona Senator John McCain, who are behind the Senate plan, will be wary of any endorsement from the president.

The White House won't trust them. House Speaker John Boehner responded to the most consensual speech President Obama has made for months by warning him not to move to the left.

There will be a lot of shadow boxing and burning of straw men before this is done.

But I sense the plan, or something like it, will be done. The president has designed a strategy where it is hard for him to lose.

If he gets his way, he will have achieved something big that has eluded past presidents, including Republican George W Bush.

If he fails, he will have done so having exposed deep fissures in the Republican party. They would also get the blame for failure and perhaps lose forever any chance with Latino voters.

Faced with that possibility, some will argue for months but eventually opt to swallow hard and share some of the credit with the president they loathe.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

Is Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy about to bring back Blairism?

Those on the left think new Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy could be about to take the party back to the days of Tony Blair, says the BBC's Mark Mardell.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    You know, there is evidence that there were at least 3 waves of migrants from Asia, the most recent being the Athabaskans peoples (Tlingit, Navajo, etc), so when they pushed out the indigenous people already in the Americas, were they immoral too, and should they be forced to pay reparations?

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Saw the Congresswoman who got shot in the head, on the news today, appealing for common sense to prevail in the battle with the gun nuts -
    what's it going to take to muzzle these idiots?

    Brave lady - I admire her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    111. escapedfromny
    ? Then there will be no illegal guns in the US! Well, I'll send that idea to my senator right now.
    That was how they became legal in the first place remember War of Independence . Ring any bells??.
    Now their is some push back from he other side of that argument, so now it gets really interesting.
    Advanced Democracy,, Not for the Faint Hearted

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    @#48 - So whenever there is a large enough group of lawbreakers, the best solution it to make whatever is illegal legal, and so the problems is solved and there is no unrest. Got it - so you think the way to solve the gun problem in the US is to make all guns legal, right? Then there will be no illegal guns in the US! Well, I'll send that idea to my senator right now. . . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    What's the point of having laws if you aren't going to enforce them?
    It's a question that we in the UK have asked repeatedly of our Prime Minister. When the Libor global fraud scandal erupted he opted not to apply the criminal law as set out in the Fraud Act 2006.
    Initially he even wanted Barclays to deal with the "issue" in house.

    As if banksters needed any more let offs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    106. AndreaNY
    “I was also hit by an illegal immigrant.”

    Wow – that is an interesting coincidence. I felt badly for my guy, too. He looked terrified. I think he was physically okay.

    “I'd like to see controls that adapt for changing demand (ex., guest workers)”

    I agree, I do like the guest worker ideas.

  • Comment number 108.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    DaHindu @105
    "melting pot"

    So far no American alloy / compound

    Rather, swirling multi-stratified mixture, with some large & growing 'lumps'

    All wanting 'in', desperate for approval, minorities especially, tending not to offer criticism of system. So the obscenity lurches on, despoiling the land, home & abroad

    Well "awry" already, equal partnership only in marriage & business, denied to society

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    99. marieinaustin

    Border should be Tight first.

    Not sure physically controlling entire border is possible, but open is unacceptable. I'd like to see controls that adapt for changing demand (ex., guest workers).

    BTW, I was also hit by an illegal immigrant. No damage so I didn't press it. Felt badly for him.

    105. DaHindu

    Inclusiveness and following law not mutually exclusive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    This step needs to be taken to ensure a better future for America.We must look at the failures of Continental Europe when it comes to immigration policy. The sidelining of ethnic groups in Europe has created huge problems in European society,Something America has avoided through Inclusiveness. American society has always been a melting pot and must remain so. lest the Experiment go awry.

  • Comment number 104.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Nations that still have any sovereignty have an obligation and right to enforce it. That means we should decide who may and may not enter the country legally.What's the point of having laws if you aren't going to enforce them? If the government agents won't patrol and enforce the border, Americans are well armed enough to do it for them.Enforcing the border is not the same as opposing immigration

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Really ?
    Are you aware that oral sex (even within marriage) was still illegal in 13 US states until 2003
    Aww, that sucks man!

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    @94 - Looney Limey - “the further apart they have become the easier it is differentiate between them but harder to find a compromise as well
    Both parties are guilty”

    A serious problem and one that needs resolution. Hopefully, with Obama’s support, the bipartisan Senators’ proposals can be turned into beneficial immigration reform law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @97. AndreaNY

    I think Unjust laws should be broken by as many people as you can get to break them.
    Once the USA was a nation that fought for it's freedoms.
    Now it seems a requirement to be told when to cross the road.

    All nations are a country of laws in some sense, so I guess it depends where you draw the line.

    But in a free country law is not and should never be absolute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Border should be Tight first. Not impossible to do. Fines from employers & fines & back-taxes from current illegal immgnts should go to border security. I was in collision w a man who was prob here illegally. Hit me & I saw his face, he was 50-55 y.o. He sped off. I gave plates & car descriptn to police - said plates had long-been expired, no relation to car.Not good to be under radar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Correction for Post 95

    It was 9 states for Married couples Not 13 as stated (the other 4 kept those rules only for G&L consenting adults only.
    Overturned in 2003 supreme court

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    95. readwrite

    Rewarding someone who has broken the law is quite another thing. It's still a country of laws.

    For many Americans (both R and D) immigration laws are not optional. The same is true for those who followed them to gain citizenship.

    A primary objection to amnesty is that it rewards people who break the laws. Do you disagree?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    LL It strikes me that the Reps have lunged even further to the right rather than the dems moving towards the centre (of course, that perspective presumes the dems are right of centre).

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    93 AndreaNY
    7 MINS AGO

    Really ?
    Are you aware that oral sex (even within marriage) was still illegal in 13 US states until 2003

    That absolutism to the law I strongly suspect is something you think others are required to follow but somehow doesn't really apply when you do like it.

    Laws are just rules. The sensible ones last, the others are tried and rejected. But they are always broken first


Page 1 of 6



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.