President Obama just gave about a 25 minute speech in Las Vegas outlining (in terms even more broad than the Senate’s gang of eight yesterday) his principles for comprehensive (but of course) immigration reform. Here are the highlights from the president’s speech and the written proposal released by the White House:
Most of the details here were left unpacked in the speech. It’s worth noting that there was basically dead silence in the Vegas crowd when it came to enforcement and employment verification. It’s also worth noting that he left out some of the most controversial bits, like the small matter of the the blanket recognition of same-sex unions by the federal government. The plan is also mum on an “enforcement trigger” sought by congressional Republicans, which would tie the substantive reform to measurable border-security improvements.
Politically, this was a campaign-style speech to a very friendly crowd, complete with weird, constitutionally empty threats to the very legislators who beat the president to the punch by 24 hours (“If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill. . . and insist that they vote on it right away” — presumably SEAL Team Six will be involved). Rhetorically, Obama made a few subtle but key shifts from past principles, most noticeably away from “a path to legal status” for illegals to “a path toward citizenship” — “earned citizenship,” to be precise, which appears to be the administration’s favored alternative to the loaded “amnesty.”
This is the kind of speech and the kind of proposal designed to make clear to Congress that the president is going “all rights reserved.” It leaves him free to either use the most controversial elements as bargaining chips or blow up bipartisan talks by “insisting” on planks leftward of the bipartisan consensus.