President Obama's immigration initiatives thus far have tried to show both toughness and compassion. The administration has cracked down on illegal hiring by federal contractors, while de-emphasizing raids that sweep up illegal workers. It also launched a review of immigration detention practices. The enforcement measures have not required congressional action.
But the next big test is legislation. Obama promised immigration reform, but he now says action is unlikely until 2010.
If a bill goes forward, most likely in the Senate before next Easter, the biggest debate may come over how to set levels for the "future flow" of immigrant workers. Business groups want a guest-worker program or "market-based" levels set by Congress to accommodate economic growth. Labor unions want a commission to set levels when labor shortages exist, to protect native U.S. workers and wages.
-- Spencer S. Hsu