Obama made a major immigration speech last year casting the need for reform in economic terms and explicitly connecting it to jobs and the middle class. But the glossy jobs booklet the President is promoting in swing-state appearances makes no mention of the topic at all, even as he continues to say it will be a first year priority in his second-term agenda.
Obama's 20-page booklet (pdf) unveiled after the third debate is titled "A Plan for Jobs & Middle-Class Security." It offers seven bullet points the President says he will focus on if elected to a second term. Some items on this list--reviving manufacturing and small business growth--relate directly to job creation. Other items--energy independence, education, deficit reduction, health care and retirement security--relate to the economy more indirectly.
Granted, there are all sorts of social issues not mentioned in Obama's Jobs plan, such as abortion and gay marriage. But as Ed Morrissey pointed out this morning, it's curious that immigration reform didn't make a list of the President's top seven economic concerns since Obama himself has directly connected reform to both jobs and the middle class in the recent past.
In May 2011, the President traveled to El Paso and gave a speech at the border in which he called immigration reform an "economic imperative." This came as part of an extended and explicit connection between immigration reform and the middle class, which is still highlighted on the White House website:
One way to strengthen the middle class in America is to reform the
immigration system so that there is no longer a massive underground
economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for
everybody else. I want incomes for middle-class families to rise
again. (Applause.) I want prosperity in this country to be widely
shared. (Applause.) I want everybody to be able to reach that American
dream. And that’s why immigration reform is an economic imperative.
It’s an economic imperative...
So immigration is not just the right thing to do. It’s smart for our
economy. It’s smart for our economy. (Applause.) And it’s for this
reason that businesses all across America are demanding that Washington
finally meet its responsibilities to solve the immigration problem.
Obama claimed a direct connection between immigration reform on the one hand and economics and the middle class on the other. So why didn't this issue make it into his glossy plan on jobs and the middle class?
We know it's not because the issue has dropped off his agenda. In an April interview with Univision, Obama was asked directly if he would get reform done if given a second term. Obama replied, "I can promise that I will try to do it in the first year of my second term [emphasis added]." The President seemed much more confident in a recent interview with the Des Moines Register. After dealing with the so-called fiscal cliff and sequester, the very next item he wanted to tackle in his first year was immigration reform:
The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration
reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt.
Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is
because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so
alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the
Obama clearly sees Latinos as a key political constituency, just as he did in 2008. The question is why he has gone from saying immigration is an "economic imperative" with implications for the middle class to excluding it from the top 7 items in his newly minted middle-class jobs agenda.
One possible reason is that he doesn't think immigration reform will play as well in midwest swing states where he is distributing these booklets as it does on Univision or in supposedly off-the-record interviews with journalists. Call it the "bitter clingers" strategy.
Latinos thinking about giving Obama a second chance to fulfill his four-year-old promise on immigration reform should weigh the omission of the issue from his highly publicized plan carefully. So should swing-state voters who feel they are not being told what Obama's real agenda is for a second term.