Immigration reform made a brief appearance in President Obama’s inauguration address, disappearing faster than the shadow of Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day. “Our journey is not complete,” Obama declared, “until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”
Much like the elusive predictor of the length of winter, the President’s promises to fix our broken borders and deeply flawed immigration system have become an annual event. The clarion call in this speech seems particularly vacuous—leaving no suggestion of what the President actually plans to do.
Many on Capitol Hill believe that the President plans to back a “comprehensive” bill—a confusing, complicated, and contentious measure that Congress has rejected before. That’s a disappointing approach that shows Obama is more interested in playing politics than solving problems.
“Comprehensive” legislation–likely to be written behind closed doors producing a massive, unwieldy bill loaded with measures for special interests–will worsen the problems it seeks to solve. A real problem-solving approach would look to unite the left and right behind the proposals we can all agree on and look for solutions that actually make the system work better.
Instead of a comprehensive bill, a problem-solving approach that treats each of the many issues in our immigration system in its own lane can offer a better solution. In this manner, reforms can move forward in multiple areas at the same time and advance toward meaningful and effective solutions. That is an approach that would turn the meaningless words in the President’s speech into real answers.