This is good news, and probably smart politics:
While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.
Mr. Obama plans to speak publicly about the issue in May, administration officials said, and over the summer he will convene working groups, including lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups, to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.
Some White House officials said that immigration would not take precedence over the health care and energy proposals that Mr. Obama has identified as priorities. But the timetable is consistent with pledges Mr. Obama made to Hispanic groups in last year’s campaign.
He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office.
One of the things I respected about George W. Bush (insert caveat about all his flaws here) was that he pushed hard for immigration reform, despite strong, and ultimately successful, resistance within his own party. I recognize there are valid countervailing concerns in this area, for instance about undermining the rule of law, strain on public services, and negative effects on poorer Americans. However, I’ve always favored expanded access to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants, both as a means of addressing the abuses they suffer, and because I see citizenship as a win-win for most of the parties involved. It’s likely a winning issue for the Democrats as well, so it’s smart politics. It will be interesting to see how the proposal is designed; hopefully this plan will signal the beginning of a more sane and humanitarian approach towards illegal immigrants in our country.