Obama’s State of the Union Criticizes Divide on Immigration

January 20, 2015 Updated: October 8, 2018

President Barack Obama focused his brief remarks on immigration in his Monday State of the Union address on castigating partisan divide on the issue.

He entered the chamber with bright smiles and youthful charm, yet allowed the first awkward pause when cautioning against “re-fighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix [pause] a broken system.”

Indeed, 25 states seek temporary injunction of Obama’s executive order that grants some 5 million illegal immigrants temporary stay. The states argue the effects of the order would be costly and burdensome.

The strongly conservative House, meanwhile, voted to defund President’s immigration executive orders last week, even though the Senate most likely has enough moderate Republicans to block the bill.

Obama also flexed his Presidential muscles saying he’d veto any bill that would try to reverse his orders on immigration.

“Passions still fly on immigration.”
— President Barack Obama

Since a comprehensive immigration bill failed in 2013, the Congress hasn’t passed any bills that would put a dent in the pressing issue. There are about 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The majority have been in the country for longer than a decade.

“Yes, passions still fly on immigration,” Obama said. “But surely we can all see something of ourselves in a striving young student and agree that no one benefits when a hard-working mom is snatched from her child.”

Whether the House Republicans will agree with him remains a question.

Most recently they introduced a bill that would invest in increasing security against illegally crossing the border called the Secure our Borders First Act, sidestepping the issue of those that have already crossed.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they will ultimately overpower the President on the issue.

“They’re trying to pass these tough bills now so that they look like that they are pro-immigration enforcement,” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of Migration Policy Institute office at New York University School of Law.

But risking losing the Latino vote altogether in the 2016 Presidential election may be too much of a gamble. So Obama still may get his immigration reform before leaving the office, Chishti said.

On the other hand, if any court grants the injunction of Obama’s executive order, it may not go into effect as scheduled in May, and could even get significantly delayed. Then “there’s a possibility that Republicans could regain this ground,” Chishti said–both in political and policy terms.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab