Immigration may prove a winning issue for Obama

People walk around behind a metal fence in Laredo, Texas President Obama's plan has many things in common with the Senate framework

Related Stories

Here, in the border town of Laredo, Texas, President Barack Obama's speech calling for immigration reform will matter.

So will the delicate political calculations made by Republican and Democratic politicians who are seeking votes by seeking change.

It is quite a thrill to be here, hoping to catch a glimpse of Captain Call from Larry McMurty's novel Streets of Laredo, or the doomed cowboy of the Johnny Cash song.

No such luck, but it is an atmospheric place.

The real streets of Laredo do indeed feel like a slice of the old West, slightly battered and dusty, and it is also clearly a border town, with all the shop names in Spanish and the people on the streets overwhelmingly Hispanic.

Shadow boxing

There is a long, covered bridge across the Rio Grande with high bars running up the side, making it look a little like a prison.

There is a big queue as lines of people dutifully wait to show their papers and cross into the much richer country.

But this is just a tiny part of the border between Mexico and the US that stretches for nearly 2,000 miles (3,220km).

Over the years many have broken the law and crossed it without papers - there are said to be 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.

It will matter not just because there are probably quite a few people who do not have the right papers and who would like to become Americans.

Two men sit on a bench in Laredo, Texas Some Republicans fear the party might lose Latino support forever

It will matter because many Latino citizens judge politicians on how they treat their illegal cousins and friends.

By declaring that "the time is now" for change, the president has picked the one cause where there is some possible room for agreement with Republicans, eager to court the fastest growing ethnic group in America.

President Obama all but endorsed the plan already put together by senators of both parties.

In particular, he agreed that illegal immigrants had to pay fines, back-taxes and go to the end of the queue to become citizens.

It may be tough enough to not be described as "amnesty". Many conservatives regard that as rewarding criminality and luring more to breach American borders illegally.

Republicans like Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Arizona Senator John McCain, who are behind the Senate plan, will be wary of any endorsement from the president.

The White House won't trust them. House Speaker John Boehner responded to the most consensual speech President Obama has made for months by warning him not to move to the left.

There will be a lot of shadow boxing and burning of straw men before this is done.

But I sense the plan, or something like it, will be done. The president has designed a strategy where it is hard for him to lose.

If he gets his way, he will have achieved something big that has eluded past presidents, including Republican George W Bush.

If he fails, he will have done so having exposed deep fissures in the Republican party. They would also get the blame for failure and perhaps lose forever any chance with Latino voters.

Faced with that possibility, some will argue for months but eventually opt to swallow hard and share some of the credit with the president they loathe.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

Could Blue Labour capture party's soul?

The Blue Labour movement could yet play a key role in determining the party's future, says the BBC's Mark Mardell.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    You know, there is evidence that there were at least 3 waves of migrants from Asia, the most recent being the Athabaskans peoples (Tlingit, Navajo, etc), so when they pushed out the indigenous people already in the Americas, were they immoral too, and should they be forced to pay reparations?

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Saw the Congresswoman who got shot in the head, on the news today, appealing for common sense to prevail in the battle with the gun nuts -
    what's it going to take to muzzle these idiots?

    Brave lady - I admire her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    111. escapedfromny
    ? Then there will be no illegal guns in the US! Well, I'll send that idea to my senator right now.
    That was how they became legal in the first place remember War of Independence . Ring any bells??.
    Now their is some push back from he other side of that argument, so now it gets really interesting.
    Advanced Democracy,, Not for the Faint Hearted

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    @#48 - So whenever there is a large enough group of lawbreakers, the best solution it to make whatever is illegal legal, and so the problems is solved and there is no unrest. Got it - so you think the way to solve the gun problem in the US is to make all guns legal, right? Then there will be no illegal guns in the US! Well, I'll send that idea to my senator right now. . . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    What's the point of having laws if you aren't going to enforce them?
    It's a question that we in the UK have asked repeatedly of our Prime Minister. When the Libor global fraud scandal erupted he opted not to apply the criminal law as set out in the Fraud Act 2006.
    Initially he even wanted Barclays to deal with the "issue" in house.

    As if banksters needed any more let offs!


Comments 5 of 114


Features & Analysis

  • TricycleTreasure trove

    The lost property shop stuffed with diamonds, bikes... and a leg

  • Boris Nemtsov'I loved Nemtsov'

    A murder in an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance

  • Image of George from Tube CrushTube crush

    How London's male commuters set Chinese hearts racing

  • INDHUJA'Dorky tomboy'

    The Indian who attracted proposals through honesty

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show


  • Kinetic sculpture violinClick Watch

    The "kinetic sculpture" that can replicate digital files and play them on a violin

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.