In light of the success of Osama Bin Laden’s capture that yielded an uptick in the President’s job approval rating to 52%, President Obama tries to pivot back to domestic policy by putting immigration reform back on the national agenda. The issue of immigration has always been contentious partly because of ethnocentrism and resentment towards immigrants. In addition, at a time of economic crisis, there is usually more hostility towards immigrants because of the fear that an influx of immigrants-especially undocumented immigrants- will be an additional strain on an ailing economy that will inhibit job creation and fair market competition. With that in mind, the president tries to tie immigration reform to the economy the same way he tried to tie healthcare reform to the economy. For example, he mentions that comprehensive immigration reform is an economic imperative because it facilitates innovation and job creation which enables American citizens to thrive and compete in a global economy. Also, President Obama threads the needle of emphasizing the need for border security while also calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
However, the timing of this speech is noteworthy. Prior to the death of Osama Bin Laden, Republicans were very successful in controlling the message about the need to curtail federal spending. Bin Laden’s death momentarily shifted public attention towards the president and his strong leadership in overseeing the successful military operation that led to Osama Bin Laden’s capture. Republicans are once again trying to seize control of the public debate on fiscal issues. Just yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner in a speech to the Economic Club of New York said that Republicans will insist on trillions of dollars in federal spending cuts if they are to vote for an increase in the federal debt limit. Given this upcoming showdown, it is unclear how much political capital President Obama is willing to spend on immigration reform especially when jobs and the economy are still the top issues in the minds of most voters. The president’s actions in the coming months will indicate how much he’s willing to push for a comprehensive immigration reform bill.