House Speaker Pelosi Backtracking on Immigration Reform Before It Even Starts?

Pelosi at the last presidential debate at Hofstra University (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Pelosi at the last presidential debate at Hofstra University (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

This week, in an interview with the nation’s largest Spanish-language newspaper chain, Barack Obama promised to begin working on immigration reform in the first year in the White House.

The new president – whether it’s Obama or McCain – will need to work with Congress on this tough issue. A few days ago, deep in an Associated Press interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, there was a worrying sign for advocates of immigration reform.

At the bottom of an Oct. 17 story about likely post-electoral Congressional action, came these lines about next year’s session:

Pelosi also said Congress would have to tackle the politically sticky job of overhauling immigration laws in the new Congress, after a bipartisan measure collapsed last year.

The estimated 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally “are part of the U.S. economy. We cannot send them all home, and we cannot send them all to jail, so we have to address it,” Pelosi said.

Any solution would have to be bipartisan, she said, so it may require sacrificing some of Democrats’ past priorities, such as giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

“Maybe there never is a path to citizenship if you came here illegally,” Pelosi said. “I would hope that there could be, but maybe there isn’t.”

That last comment has sent pro-immigration bloggers into a rage.

The driving force behind (Latino’s) increased participation has been the volatile immigration debate and the vitriolic rhetoric that came from certain quarters of the Republican Party,” Migra Matters wrote. “But now it appears that Speaker Pelosi is ready to backpedal on a key aspect of the Comprehensive Reform that Democrats have claimed to champion since the debate began.”

… “This is not the deal the Democrats made with this constituency.” asked, “Is this really the road the Democrats want to go down? I doubt that Democratic voters want to see this. If Pelosi and other Democratic leaders don’t understand this, they are in for a rude awakening.”

Citizen Orange warned Democrats that “if they believe they can sell immigrant communities down the river AGAIN next year, we will show them otherwise.”

And so went the reactions, of which there are more at The Sanctuary, The Unapologetic Mexican –who foresees a “permanent U.S. slave class”–, Vivir Latino, DreamActivist, Docudharma, Political Salsa, and Of América.

The immigration page of Pelosi’s official website –which doesn’t appear to include any new information about her comments to the AP — features a statement that “while immigration reform remains an unsolved challenge for our nation, the Democratic-led House is leading the way towards comprehensive reform.” It also laments the failure of the comprehensive reform bill of last year. The press release section doesn’t feature any new information either.

Feet in 2 Worlds called Pelosi’s press office Wednesday, hoping for clarification, but no media relations personnel were available at the time. We haven’t received a response yet, but we’ll publish it if we do.

While pro-immigration advocates who have read the statement are unhappily surprised, in the hectic final days of an historic election campaign, the Speaker’s words have largely gone unnoticed

Citizen Orange perhaps summed up the feelings of those who are aware of Pelosi’s remarks:

“Since when do politicians start breaking promises before the election?”

AboutDiego Graglia
Diego Graglia is a bilingual multimedia journalist who has worked at major media outlets in the U.S. and Latin America. He is currently the editor-in-chief at Expansion, Meixco’s leading business magazine.