Editorial Roundup: After White House Immigration Reform Meeting, Media Looks Ahead

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

President Barack Obama finally sat down with legislators from both parties last week to talk about immigration reform and the news media saluted the meeting with editorials and op-ed pieces on how to proceed.

The meeting, said Los Angeles newspaper La Opinión, was “the first step toward immigration reform. In itself, the start does not guarantee that new legislation will be feasible this year despite the urgent need, but the fact that it has begun is hopeful.

“The cards are now on the table –the newspaper said–. We hope that they will be well played.”

After persistent doubts about the president’s commitment to fulfilling his campaign promise on immigration reform, The New York Times noted that “(i)t now seems more likely than before that Mr. Obama is ready to lead the way, uniting problem-solvers in both parties out of a long-stalemated debate.”

Then, it warned:

He’d better, because the alternative — another crashing letdown and the traditional exchanges of blame — is awful to consider

The Seattle Times welcomed the meeting “despite the virulent demagoguery and ugly debate it no doubt will revive.”

Mindful of –among many others– Washington State’s rural producers who need workers to pick their cherries and apples, the paper added, “Another harvest has started without immigration reform, but at least the first harvest of President Obama’s administration will not end without a redoubled effort to bring some reason to U.S. immigration policy.”

“The good news is that it’s being discussed at all by the president and Congress,” said The Denver Post, “considering how volatile the topic is and how many other major issues are on the public policy table.

The bad news is that even at this preliminary stage, the debate has taken a divisive turn, with business and labor interests splitting over the idea of expanding the guest worker program. The labor side is opposed.

The Post noted a guest worker program appears to be one of the main obstacles blocking a reform bill. “The Post has long supported a broader guest worker program, and we can’t see how any immigration reform plan could succeed without one,” it said.

Yael T. Abouhalkah, a Kansas City Star columnist, agreed that the country needs immigration reform, but he does not think it is so urgent as others say.

“America needs to reform its immigration policies. But not this year,” he wrote. “President Barack Obama and Congress have plenty on their plate (…) and do not need to tackle such a divisive issue in 2009.”

Obama can’t afford to waste important political capital (…) to wade into that political battle in 2009.

CNN contributor Ruben Navarrette Jr. said lawmakers and activists need to find a middle road if they want to see a reform bill passed at all.

As we go along, it would be nice if lawmakers and advocacy groups avoided wandering off into ancillary issues that divide and distract.

For liberals, that means not interfering with workplace raids and other enforcement measures they find unpleasant.

For conservatives, it means not flirting with cultural hot buttons like declaring English the national language.

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