August 6th, 2010
10:13 AM ET

Letters to the President #564: 'The big chill on immigration reform'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/06/art.obama.flag.jpg]Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama has talked a good bit about immigration, and raised some important questions.  But I have some questions of my own in my daily letter slipped over the White House fence.

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve been watching the immigration debate with some interest the past few weeks, and I have some questions I hope you can answer. Sorry to bother you with them, but I tried calling into a talk radio show and was left on hold. I do not have, mind you, any answers just questions which I hope are fair, unbiased and reasonable. Unlike my opinion on, oh say, the merits of bread pudding which are anything but.

Question one: Is this really about federal versus local responsibilities and jurisdiction? That was the cornerstone of your lawsuit against Arizona, right, that they are playing on your field? While the court largely agreed with your side, I still can’t help but think that this was kind of an end run around the philosophical debate over whether these people who are here illegally should be aggressively identified and thrown out, or whether they should be legalized and allowed to stay.

Question two: If you don’t want local authorities lending a strong hand in pursuing these undocumented visitors (and it at least seems you don’t, based on how you pursued this) aren’t there a lot of other things that the locals could shrug off? For example, many Homeland Security matters could be rightfully called federal business. A lot of drug smuggling, too. Yet if the locals all said “OK, you’re on your own; our police will stick to burglaries and speeding,” I think folks on your team would quickly be screaming for them to get involved again.

Question three: (and this is the really big one) Do you seriously, genuinely, honestly want to take this issue on now and find a solution? Because, I have to say, I’m not convinced that anyone in DC is intent on grabbing this live wire with an election dangling. Both parties would love to play it for votes, but I think they are also afraid of losing votes if they spin it the wrong way. So your political pals on both sides of the aisle are filling the air with empty promises, pseudo debate, and I’d just about bet my house that nothing will be done one way or the other any time soon.

And that’s not good for anyone. People who want a more liberal policy can’t bank on it; people who want a more restrictive one can’t count on that either; even people who want a reasonable compromise, I suspect, have a snowball’s chance on a New Orleans sidewalk of seeing even a hint of it before this election.

And you wonder why people have so little regard for the government? This is why. We have a serious situation; people on both sides and in the middle readily agree on that. What we don’t have is enough serious leaders willing to sit down, hash out an agreement, and put it into law. It’s much more convenient for both sides to blame the other for impeding progress than to actually do something. Because they’re all worried about politics; worried about their own skins more than the good of the country. I hate to sound harsh, but isn’t that what it comes down to? If you and the DC gang (Dems and Repubs) think this is as urgent as you all profess, then take it on right now. You have the power, and frankly the responsibility. Now show that you have the will, and let the chips fall where they may.

I’m traveling back to DC today, if nothing changes in my schedule. Call and say hello if you can. Want to golf this weekend?



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Mike Munro

    Your letter to the president is quite clear and could be no more simplified. An eight year old could understand it. Bottom line of it's entirety is, "Are you legal, or are you not"?
    Of all the working class, and those that are unfortunate enough to not have a job, want these people out, but it's obvious to those that are up for election, we do not count. The masses that come from the Latino vote do and it is beginning to tear this country apart. The movement of Islam and Latin America are seething to take over and the people of government are only trying to make it good for themselves while they are of age to do it. They should be ashamed. I say not this for myself, but for my grandchildren. They are the ones that will fight the possible strife ahead with these idealists and runnaways.
    I close with a saddened heart,

    August 8, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  2. Alicia Luna

    Hi....I would like a complete coverage about the situation in occupied Kashmir.

    August 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  3. Mike

    Legalize 12 million illegal immigrants.-- Just giving these 12 million potential new citizens free health care alone could overwhelm the system and bankrupt America. But it adds 12 million reliable new Democrat voters who can be counted on to support big government. Add another few trillion dollars in welfare, aid to dependent children, food stamps, free medical, education, tax credits for the poor, and eventually Social Security.

    August 7, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  4. Steve

    Could not have said it better myself. No action leaves us worse off than before. Everyone is ready for a commitiment, hopefully more compassionate than unfair, and we need it!!!

    August 7, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  5. Qyu

    They are just making a BIG haloooo about immigration....

    August 7, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  6. Edna

    Why does everybody who writes about immigration miss a most important point? I would like to know how illegal immigrants who become legal under any reform plan will pay taxes. Almost all will receive large refunds under the EITC and other credits. In fact, law allows those who become legal after being illegal to file back tax returns for three years and get any refund due. This could result in illegals getting a check in excess of at a minimum of $15,000. Why doesn't somebody answer or even ask that question?

    August 7, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  7. Jim

    Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:–"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.")..................
    Preservation means: execute the law of the land as Congress has established and was signed into law and upheld by supreme justice in accordance with the "meaning and governance" of the U.S. Constitution.
    Protect means: the Constitution is the SUPREME law of the land and the rightful law established in accordance with it shall be enforced.
    Defend means: there shall be no other ideology or law above it and that it will be defended, including the loss of life to ensure its establishment endures and it is enshrined for the freedom and liberty of future unborn generations......
    (The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors).......Failure to enforce a law, to ignore a law, or selectively execute law leaves a large gray zone when contemplating impeachment. At what point of determination has the executive committed a crime? If a president chooses not to "faithfully execute the office" then he has committed a crime...against the people , the "people" have the right to remove him from office.

    August 6, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  8. yellow_finch

    Government and DC gang simply don't want to solve immigration problem because now they can blame poor Mexicans for all plaques.
    Heath care, education, debt – you name it. If immigration is solved, politicians must go back to hard work and they don't like it.

    August 6, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  9. Sebastian

    We will get New Mexico, Arizona and Texas to back Mexico territory.

    August 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  10. C

    Mr. Foreman,
    This was a quite a heated letter and hopefully it will get Mr President to muster up some gusto and do something. I don't know why the politicians keep conjuring up more problems to "fix" when they haven't really fixed one.

    Now, I am a believer in different problems being linked together in some form or fashion but sometimes one needs to back up and look at the big picture.

    I guess everyone has their own opinions of how perfect the world should be. However, yes I agree with you, they just need to meet and make decisions.

    Cooling off for now,

    August 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  11. suresh

    You are enormously correct. I would like to see Democrats and Republicans see what they really care for. If both parties really care for Immigration fix, first they have to fix the legal Immigration system. Make it realistic and more practical. There is a huge backlog in Immigration where it takes 10 -20 years for one to become a Legal permanent resident. It’s been a decade they passé a spl legislation to recapture unused visa numbers to reduce the backlog. Fix the Legal Immigration, before taking about Illegal Immigration

    August 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  12. Thomas Balmer

    You are absolutely right, it is all about these no good politicians trying to keep their worthless job. I, also believe, it is also about money and how much money it is involved in this issue. If, the illegals are deported, which is truly impossible, prices will go up in a lot of sectors of the economy, from the vegetables we eat, to the people taking care of our children. Companies would have to pay higher wages, provide health insurance and a whole array of benefits which will cost them millions. It is to the best interest of most companies to let the people complain and complain while they spend millions lobbying about keeping the Immigration issue on the back burner. President Obama, promised to take care of this issue, yet, to this date, has done nothing!! and will do nothing!! Just like Bush, he is more concerned about spending billions of dollars which we dont have on Wars which truly have no impact in our lives, regardless of all the fear they want americans to have over the terrorism issue. I believe, the Democrats will lose the next election and Obama will not be our next President, we have had enough of the Bush disaster, we dont want a puppet for a President., either Obama takes care of these issues or he will lose his job!!

    August 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  13. Clay Porter

    I enjoyed this letter and agree with the position Tom has taken to express the vital role this issue plays in American policy and social discourse. However to place Immigration Reform in the context of a wider global apparatus, it becomes apparent that the relationship between the legality of Undocumented Workers and the US position on international human rights is the prime font of debate. It is not the moral or legal contradiction that is the pinnacle of this discussion, then its the regulatory process which mediates it. The implications the decision has in creating precedent for America's stance on Human Rights is crucial to future policy as it relates to global exchange; this has happened before. Think of the US stance on Genocide in both the Congo and Rwanda and its relationship to Chinese-based economies and Cobalt and other natural resources in those regions, along with the role of development aid and security provided by the State Department. These larger political measures are integral aspects of US politics and culture; the relationship between Immigration Reform functions as the structure for future global decisions and is vital to discussions of fundamental human rights both on the Constitutional and UN-backed levels.

    August 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  14. Boomer in Mo

    Politicians only take the positions lobbyists pay them to take.

    August 6, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  15. michael hill

    You are absolutely correct. Undocumented Workers/Illegal Immigrants are being used to carve out votes and define positions between the two parties. Nobody really wants to solve the issue. It is much easier to point fingers and try to gain voters attentions than to address the actual issue. Same goes for Social Security and Medicare and other entitlements. If the elected leaders aren't held accountable, why should they take a position?

    August 6, 2010 at 10:52 am |