President Barack Obama will issue a public call to action for immigration reform during an appearance Tuesday in Texas near the Mexico border.
The speech, billed as a blueprint by senior administration officials, will mark the fourth week that Obama has publicly addressed the issue. Immigration reform is a priority for Latino voters, whom Democrats are heavily courting in the lead-up to the 2012 election.
“His marching orders to us are creating a pathway to get this done. Period. That’s why he’s leaning forward on legislative action,” a senior administration official said during a call with reporters Monday to preview Obama’s appearance in El Paso. “This is all about creating a pathway so we set the table for the partners we need to come to the table.”
Another official on the call underscored Obama’s commitment to border security but added, “It’s time now to begin taking up the immigration reform issue as well.”
Administration officials are also organizing “community conversations” on the issue with business, labor, law enforcement, faith and minority groups.
Republicans maintain that the administration needs to commit more resources to protect the border before any legislative action is taken on immigration. Additionally, GOP lawmakers have expressed concerns that sweeping reforms that grant citizenship to more immigrants would harm the nation’s economy.
Senior officials on the call Monday sought to dispel both concerns by saying that the administration has committed resources to border security and that reform would spur economic growth.
“It makes little, if any, economic sense for us to train and educate the top entrepreneurs and job creators of the next generation or this generation and then force them to leave to compete against us,” another official on the call said, referring to students who immigrated to the United States illegally.
Obama supports legislation known as the DREAM Act that would create a path to citizenship for college students and members of the military. But Democrats were unable to pass that bill or other immigration legislation during the previous Congress, despite controlling both chambers, and action this year is unlikely.
The politically difficult issue has taken a back seat to jobs, the economy and, more recently, foreign affairs in the wake of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, the senior officials said Obama is pressing immigration in an attempt to rally supporters and potentially prompt legislative action.
Obama met last week with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and during a recent trip to Miami he pledged to “keep fighting” for the DREAM Act. He also made a pitch for comprehensive immigration reform during a town hall meeting last month at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.