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President Barack Obama

Obama must push for immigration reform

\"President

President Barack Obama

Hope springs anew in the never-ending battle to win comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.

The latest development saw President Barack Obama finally convene a top-level meeting of congressional leaders and key staffers to discuss how the issue might move ahead.

They are due to report back to him in jig time and hopefully, after that and later this year, the latest effort to win fair and comprehensive reform can begin.

The Obama modus operandi on immigration is no different than what he has done on health care. There too he let Congress take the lead and decide on the outline plan before getting involved.

However, the problem with that has been that his own hand is not sufficiently seen in the health care debate. Only now, after strong warnings that the health care reform package may not pass, has he jumped in.

It is vital that he becomes involved right from the get go with immigration reform. Like healthcare, there is a large slice of America that is utterly opposed to any reform that will allow undocumented in America to become legal.

As President George W. Bush found to his cost, the bully pulpit of the presidency is worth very little unless you can actually corral votes and make it happen.

Bush waited until it was too late and he was well into his lame duck second term before attempting to push immigration reform. He had squandered all his political capital by the time he got around to it. Obama cannot allow the same mistake.

Obama so far has shown himself to have a very centrist approach, to take a consensus model and try and work that through the system.

In immigration reform he will likely have to abandon that stance. The previous Kennedy/McCain immigration bill failed when the center could not hold in the face of withering criticism, mostly from the right.

Obama needs to be involved heavily in ensuring passage in the House and the Senate on the new immigration bill.

He is helped enormously by the fact that the AFL/CIO union is in favor of the legislation this time, unlike the last.

AFL President John Sweeney has made no secret that he considers the proposals under discussion to be a far more union friendly piece of legislation than the one that President Bush and the last Congress undertook. That is a remarkable step in the right direction.

Also, in New York Senator Charles Schumer, Obama has a master legislator who is well capable of steering even the hardest legislation past the Senate by dint of hard work and tough compromises.

The battle my well be in the House, where there is a 20 vote or so gap between victory and defeat at present. It is heartening to note that New York Congressman Joe Crowley, now a key figure in the Democratic caucus, was involved in the meeting with the president and will certainly be representing the interests of the Irish undocumented.

That is where the president’s great leverage will be. And he will be under pressure from the Hispanic lobby that have delivered much to him in the recent presidential campaign.

In the end, however, it may well come down to the president himself. No president of the modern era, not Kennedy, not Reagan, has the communication skills that he has shown.

His advocacy on the immigration reform issue will decide whether it succeeds or fails. Let us hope he gives it everything and repays those voters who have supported him strongly because of this issue.

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