Obama devoted just a little over two minutes to immigration in his State of the Union address, but he used that time to reiterate the basic principles he and lawmakers have laid out in recent weeks — strengthening border control, creating a path to citizenship, cutting bureaucratic red tape and attracting highly skilled immigrant workers. He reminded Americans that there is agreement on both sides of the aisle about the need for an overhaul, and he reinforced the idea that immigration reform is connected to a stronger economy.
Obama introduced no new proposals, but he echoed a speech he made last month in Las Vegas in which he praised a bipartisan Senate proposal for immigration reform. In that speech, Obama did not offer a specific proposal of his own, preferring to let the bipartisan group lead the way, and he showed similar restraint in his State of the Union address. He may have calculated the dangers of tying such a proposal too closely to himself: In a new Washington Post poll seven in 10 people said they would support a path to citizenship, but when the same question was asked with Obama’s name attached to it, support dropped precipitously, especially among Republican respondents.
Perhaps mindful of this, Obama quickly touched on the main tenets of immigration reform without adding anything new that would have distracted from or undermined the bipartisan tenor of the recent discussion. Casting immigration reform as “something that leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree on,” he appeared to be simply giving a nod to something already underway, saying, “Let’s get it done.”