Washington (AFP) – U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday sought to capitalize on a moment of sharp Republican unpopularity by pressing his foes in Congress to pass a stalled immigration bill this year.
Obama demanded action in the knowledge that the Republican Party is under pressure to improve its standing among Hispanic voters for whom immigration reform is a cherished political goal.
He spoke at the White House as polls show House of Representatives Republicans, who have declined to act on a Senate immigration reform bill, are paying the heaviest price for a stalemate over a just avoided debt default and a government shutdown.
“Let’s see if we can get it done this year,” Obama said in a White House speech on a plan to bring millions of illegal immigrants out of the shadows.
“Let’s not wait. It doesn’t get easier to just put it off. Let’s do it now. Let’s not delay.”
Despite Obama’s calls, most Washington experts believe there is little chance of prompt action on comprehensive immigration reform, since the proposal is viewed as tantamount to an amnesty for illegal immigrants by many conservative Republicans.
Time is fast running out to pass the bill, which would bolster Obama’s political legacy, before the return of hyper partisan campaign politics in the run-up to mid-term elections next year.
Republican Party leaders are acutely conscious though that if they don’t improve their standing among Hispanics — an increasingly influential voting demographic, they will suffer in future presidential elections — a vulnerability Obama is trying to exploit.