Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes in the San Jose Mercury News:
In July, during an address to the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza, Barack Obama promised to make comprehensive immigration reform "a top priority in my first year as president."
Don't hold your breath.
Just a few days before the election, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Obama to rank in order of priority five issues â€” tax cuts, health care, energy, education and immigration. Obama made up his own list, appropriately adding the economy as his No. 1 priority and dropping immigration altogether.
It's true that President-elect Obama owes Latinos an enormous debt for giving him two-thirds of their votes. But Obama and congressional Democrats also owe a lot to labor. Those IOUs are headed for a collision. I'm betting on labor to win. I expect immigration reform to be off the agenda for the next four years, especially since Obama will be looking to placate the unions while backing off the loony idea of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. That was never a serious proposal anyway, only something that Obama embraced during the Democratic primary to win votes from defeatists convinced that American products can't compete with foreign ones.I don't thinkÂ Navarette quite gets the immigration issue. There is a lot more involved here than union members and right wing ideologues. Unions and the anti-immigration right are competing for a block of voter who are increasingly alienated from both political parties and deeply skeptical of immigration. Republicans typically run well with the pro-immigration independents. The key to Democrats winning a national elections is appealing to those independents most likely to be deeply skeptical on trade and immigration.
Expect Latinos to get shortchanged â€” again. They may get bought off with a couple of high profile appointments
Latino voters don't need to get short-changed here. They need to consider instead what their key interests are beyond immigration, develop some understanding of the real costs immigration has for potential political allies, and appreciate just what the signal their votes send.
No major presidential candidate in either party has been openly skeptical of expansion of immigration for some time. John McCain devote much of his political capital to expansion of immigration—and it failed to get him much in the way of Latino votes. Instead, many Latinos switched their votes to a man who presents a very different image than Bush, and who is going have a lot of immunity from criticism on racial grounds. If Obama really wants re-election, he really could dramatically reform affirmative action and curtail immigration and be assured of lot independent votes.
What Obama must do to get re-elected is deliver somewhat better jobs and living standards for Latino, black and poorer white voters. If those voters wanted more immigration even if it mean worse jobs, medical care and education-they could have gotten that with John McCain. What he also must do is convince significant numbers of white independents that he really is "their president too" and not just the less evil alternative to George Bush. It is highly possible the next time Obama runs for president, he will not be facing an opponent closely associated with a president with the worse approval ratings in recorded history.
Also, recent union leaders really have tried to be accommodating to high immigration levels—for more accommodating than more successful union organizers like Cesar Chavez. What that practice has meant in a practical sense is that unions have lost most of the clout they have had in their heyday when other political interests helped force containment of immigration. Much of the traditional core constituency of unions includes skilled workers who are likely to be independent voters skeptical of both major parties, immigration-and union leadership that fails to openly support their interests. We aren't at the point where union leaders are openly skeptical of immigration-but they are moving in that direction.
I don't expect Obama to support the kinds of policies folks here at VDARE.com would like. What I expect from him is a modestly more activeÂ workplace enforcement than we saw under Bush and modestly lower levels of illegal immigration than we saw under Bush. I expect Obama will try to increase legal immigration a bit to compensate—and will face substantial resistance in his party if he tries to expand H-1b and other skilled guest worker visas unless he really is increasing jobs growth for Americans too.