The New York Times' April 8 cover story Obama to Push Immigration Bill as One Priority [by Julia Preston] has elicited more discussion about the President's immigration policy than at any time since he took office.
What struck me was the NYT's wording. While having the same meaning, "as a priority" would have flowed much better than "as one priority". In fact some newspapers that reprinted the story changed the wording this way.
While in The Times' context "one" and "a" mean the same thing, "one priority" usually refers to the sole priority or the top priority—with the phrase "number one priority" part of our common vernacular. If you Google "one priority," The Times' piece is the only result that uses "one priority" that way.
As a writer who is prone to grammatical errors, I'm not pointing this out to criticize the editor's syntax. Rather, I wonder if NYT was trying to create a story out of nothing.
The only real "news" in the story was that former La Raza vice president and Obama's Deputy Assistant and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Munoz said that Obama "intends to start the debate [on immigration] this year". Which could mean anything.
Other administration officials told the NYT tthat while immigration may be "one priority" it is not the number one or even number two priority for the administration—those are health care and energy. This is in sync with the Democratic Congress' model agenda that puts an amnesty placeholder at number nine in the roster.
There is nothing new about Munoz's vague statement. When she was La Raza's vice president and Obama was the presumptive Democratic Nominee, he spoke before its National Council promising that he'd make "comprehensive reform"… "a top priority in my first year as the president of the United States of America." (Of course he didn't brag about this outside of Hispanic audiences, but John McCain was in no position to point that out.)
But after the election, Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff signaled that Obama would not likely push for amnesty. While in the House leadership, Emanuel called immigration a "third rail" and vowed that the Congressional Democrats would not take it up in the first term of a Democratic Presidency.
Then after Obama met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus behind closed doors on March 18, Rep. Luis Gutierrez —perhaps the most vocally pro-amnesty Congressman in the House—called the meeting a success. According to Gutierrez, Obama agreed "there is no time to waste" for amnesty, and that he expected "a plan is forthcoming, and that we will see real change this year."
Obama's report of the meeting was less specific. He simply called it "robust" and promised to "work with the CHC to address immigration concerns in both the short and long term."
Shortly thereafter afterwards, Joe Biden told a group of Latin American leaders that it would be difficult to push for an amnesty in the midst of a recession.
Munoz's statements are nothing new. They are just the latest in a series of contradictory statements from the Obama camp about amnesty. Either they are trying to keep the patriotic immigration reform movement off balance, or they simply haven't made up their mind.
So what are the chances for amnesty in 2009?
The politics of immigration has significantly changed. With the Democrats firmly led by an Open Borders leadership and George Bush out of office, immigration is becoming more and more of a partisan issue.
As is often the case, actions speak louder than words. In the debates on the Stimulus and the Omnibus budget, Harry Reid did everything he could to block the long term renewal of E-Verify, ruling in favor of six month re-authorization. When it was finally forced to a vote, every single Republican voted in favor of it, and all but seven Democrats voted against it. Worse still, six of those seven Democrats initially opposed the long term reauthorization and changed their votes only when it became clear that the resolution would fail.
All the Democrats who voted against the long term reauthorization claimed they supported E-Verify, and made no secret that the reason for the short term extension was to use it as a bargaining chip later on. You can be sure that if an amnesty isn't introduced or fails in the fall, then the Democrats will try for just another six month reauthorization.
The DREAM Act, a sort of stealth mini-amnesty, was recently introduced into both Houses of Congress. The only Senate Republican cosponsors are Martinez and Lugar, while Democrats who used to know better like Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand signed on. In the House, save immigration lawyer-cum-accidental Congressman Joseph Cao, all the Republican cosponsors to the bill are in the Congressional Hispanic Conference—the Republican version of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus .
If the administration and Congressional leadership push for the DREAM Act, then it's hard to imagine them introducing another amnesty later in the year. If it passes, many will feel like they gave the Treason Lobby their share of the pie for the year. But if they can't pass an amnesty that's relatively small and "for the children", then it will send a pretty clear message that they can't get any amnesty through.
The best way to be ready to fight the big amnesty when it happens is to have the movement active and mobilized. There are bills dealing with in-state tuition, E-Verify, and 287-g debated on the local level across the country, and we have the DREAM Act in Congress right now.
Instead of wasting our time speculating about what Obama's plans might be, immigration reform patriots should take the offensive in these areas today.
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is the founder of the Robert A Taft Club and the executive director of the The American Cause and Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be seen here. The views he expresses are his own.