Immigrant rights advocates across the country have been speaking about the turning tide in the immigration debate. Considering the decisive Latino and New American voter turnout during the November elections, a growing number of community and faith leaders calling for just and humane reform and the continued “proxy wars” being fought over immigration in Congress – it seems pretty likely that immigration reform is on the minds of the new administration.
However, Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s appoint seemed a vexing one for immigrant rights advocates. In the past, he has blocked comprehensive immigration legislation and once even stated that a Democratic President would have to wait until his second term to enact such legislation.
Now, though, it seems like he may be changing his tune – another side of the turning tide in the immigration debate. In today’s Politico, an article featured Emanuel’s recent comments about immigration and his support for the inclusion of immigrant children and women in the coverage provided by the SCHIP bill signed by Obama last week.
Emanuel, a shrewd political mind who also epitomizes the rough and tumble politics of his hometown of Chicago, seems to be firing up the bulldozer on immigration-related issues he once resisted.
For example, he recently cleared the path for increased benefits for legal immigrant children and pregnant women in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Obama’s first major legislative victory.
The debate was set up by Latino leaders and immigrants’ rights backers as a test of Obama’s and Congress’ commitment to their issues. In negotiations with key senators, Emanuel warned that the bill would not be signed without the immigration benefits.
Also, in a recent interview with Spanish-Language media, Emanuel said that:
SCHIP shows that “the arrow is pointing in a different direction in relation to immigration politics in this country,” Emanuel told the Hispanic media during the second week of the new administration. SCHIP can be viewed as a down payment on what will be forthcoming from the Obama administration, Emanuel added, according to La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper.
It seems as though Emanuel has revised his views on immigration, which is BIG news for those of us who are pushing for just and humane reform from the New Administration. This change in approach from Emanuel hopefully signals the change that is forthcoming.