This week has seen a glimmer of a break in the ice around comprehensive immigration reform as after letting the issue languish for months, Republican leaders have finally started talking about an idea that’s long been an obvious counter-move: grant unauthorized migrants who’ve otherwise been well-behaved legal status and work permits without putting them on a path to American citizenship.
And now the White House seems to be hinting that it could be open to that idea.
I think it would be genuinely a bit nutty for the president to refuse to sign a bill along these lines were it to pass congress. Immigrants and their families want a path to citizenship, and Democrats want new citizens who can vote for them, but legal status alone would be a boon to both unauthorized migrants and the national economy. If the bill were on Obama’s desk, I just don’t see how he could avoid signing it.
That said, we’ve time and again seen the political problems with pre-emptive compromise in this administration. The absolute best way to destroy conservative support for a legal status measure would be for the White House to embrace it. If Democrats believe a path to citizenship is the right thing to do (and they certainly seem to) then they may as well keep saying that and let Republican leaders see if they can round up support for a more modest thing.