Commentary: What to Expect In Obama’s 2nd Term – Small Steps at Immigration Reform

President Obama at his Chicago victory rally. (Photo: Flickr/wchinews)

President Obama won another four years in the White House despite the economic head winds, thanks to tenacious campaign staff members, tireless volunteers, long-viewed voters, and a solid coalition of immigrants, communities of color, women, LGBTs, young people, and working class whites.

These various constituencies will no doubt hold the president accountable but they will also work closely with him at achieving the changes that remain to be accomplished.

Comprehensive immigration reform is a promise made twice over that will have to be kept if the Democrats want to keep the Latino vote in 2016. The Obama administration will also have to address the situation of 11 million unauthorized immigrants beyond indiscriminate deportation, prosecutorial discretion, and deferred action.

Republicans can no longer be obstructionists or pawns of fringe elements in their party. They need to learn that while Latinos and other immigrants share the same bread and butter concerns of most Americans, they also care about friends and family who have been demonized by GOP candidates and talking heads. The Republican Party has to find a way other than tokenism to make communities of color believe that they have a place in the starkly White tent.

But can and will comprehensive immigration reform be achieved? While I believe in the president’s and Democratic party’s commitment to immigrants, the realities of our country’s fiscal and economic problems, foreign policy quagmire, and ossified partisanship make me think that major reform is a pipe dream.

What will pass during the next Obama term are smaller legislation that deal with the demand for high-skilled workers and agricultural labor. The DREAM Act also has a strong chance of finally passing both houses of Congress. These are bites our elected officials can take and the general public can stomach.

It is painfully apparent that our immigration system needs to be fixed and that the immigrant vote can no longer be ignored. Will Republicans loosen the grip of fringe elements in their party and collaborate with Democrats and the president?

Immigrant communities and their allies are watching with 2016 in mind.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund.

Avatar photo
AboutErwin de Leon
Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.