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U.S. Immigration Reform - Five Things To Watch

POLITICO, WASHINGTON POST, CNN (USA)

Worldcrunch

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will outline his vision for comprehensive immigration reform on Tuesday, a day after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators outlined a proposal that could begin to move groundbreaking legislation forward on an issue that has long divided Americans. A key question is whether the U.S. will find a new path toward moving an estimated 11 million undocumented workers to legal status, and eventually to citizenship.

Here are five things to watch as the debate moves forward:

1. ELECTORAL REALITIES - Both parties are well aware that the number of registered Latinos has increased by 26% in the past four years to 12.2 million, or 8.7% of all voters. As CNN notes, this means this demographic will only increase its political power. Republicans as much as Democrats must be attentive to issues that matter to Latinos – and comprehensive reform of the way the United States deals with both legal and undocumented immigrants is one that definitely matters.

 Photo - White House/Pete Souza

2. PRESIDENTIAL LEGACY - Obama owes his 2012 reelection, at least in part, to strong support from Latino voters, who had also come out for him four years earlier. Having taken a back seat in his first term to health reform and other major legislation, the President hopes to make immigration reform one of his signature accomplishments of the second term. He will unveil his vision in a much-anticipated speech later Tuesday in Las Vegas, though the President isn't expected at this time to put forth specific legislation, following the initial proposal by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" from the Senate.

3. SAFETY FIRST - The four-page Senate proposal unveiled on Monday stated a number of ambitious objectives, including finding a way for some 11 million undocumented workers to eventually move toward citizenship. But as the Washington Post notes, any such changes are "contingent" on a recommendation from a still-to-be established commission charged with ensuring that America's borders are secure. 

4. THE 'A' WORD - The signature objective in the reform, to move those currently living in the United States toward legal status, faces stiff opposition from conservative Republicans, who say this amounts to "amnesty" – a concept they say encourages others to follow the undocumented path in the future. "When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration," said Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas, who serves on the immigration subcommittee in the House. "By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration." 

On the one hand, it is a question of verbiage, as Americans generally don't like the concept of granting amnesty to those who have done something illegal. On the other hand, there are two fundamentally opposing views on how to solve a problem that is very real – the presence of millions of undocumented people inside the U.S.

The U.S.-Mexico border near Tijuana. Photo - superfem

5. 2016 - Among the four Republicans behind the bipartisan proposal, there is John McCain, the Arizona senator who lost to Obama four years ago. But as Politico notes, just as importantly, there is Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American of Florida, widely considered among the top candidates to bring the White House back to the GOP in 2016. So once again, eyes on the policy – but eyes on the politics as well.

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