How many Idahoans watched President Obama’s speech Thursday about changes in the federal response to immigrants who got here against the law? Was Representative Raul Labrador among them – and did it spark any activist thoughts in his own mind?
Idaho generally has some particular reason to pay attention. A study by the Pew Research Center released last week showed that Idaho is one of just seven states where unauthorized immigration rose between 2009 and 2012. The population declined in 14 states – twice as many. Maybe more notable: Idaho and Nebraska were the only two western states where that segment of the population increased during those years; it fell in Oregon, Nevada, California and others.
Immigration has become so hot an issue that emotions often drown out facts. A lot of the responses to the Obama talk, pro and con, was suffused with emotion. The reaction from Idaho’s politicians was, as you might expect, harshly negative against Obama’s outline. Representative Mike Simpson said Obama’s actions “have the potential to throw us into a Constitutional Crisis,” though he also said “We cannot shut down the government, impeach the President, or allow this issue to impede progress on deficit reduction, tax reform, or other critical priorities for the American people.” Congressional Republicans will have a lot to talk about in the next few days and weeks.
Labrador does have some expertise in the subject, having worked as an immigration attorney in his private practice. After Obama’s speech he declared, “this is illegal,” and suggested in essence that the Senate reject over the next two years any appointments, budget requests or anything else coming its way from the White House.
The Obama policy may activate people on the other side as well, though. Recent national polling on the matter has been split on Obama taking a unilateral action on the subject. But many in the Latino community will be watching closely what happens next, and Republicans who hope to attract many of their votes in 2016 will have to approach the subject with some caution and diplomacy.
When Labrador went to Congress, one of his assets was strong personal knowledge of how the immigration system works (or fails to), the presumption being that he might be in a position to help move things ahead. So far – and not, certainly, to pile all this on him – a measure has passed the Senate, but efforts to come up with a compromise measure in the House have collapsed. Labrador’s stands on the subject, and his shifts in alliances on it, have been far from clear.
For a while, he was a central player in the group of House members working to come up with a House counterpart to a measure that passed the Senate, but then he dropped out of it, and for a year or so has argued against the House passing anything on the subject.
What Obama most clearly has done has been to place the immigration issue on the front burner – and, while taking unilateral action, he specifically asked Congress to come up with something better if it can. It’s a direct political challenge. House Republicans could avoid it by passing nothing, but do they really consider that a better approach? (And after all their disaster-has-struck rhetoric of this week, how would they defend it?)
If Labrador has any interest in playing a major role on this issue, as he is uncommonly well placed to do, this would be the time to act.
With substance, that is, rather than boilerplate.Share on Facebook