Pres. Obama mercifully let us know early on.
I'm inclined to say it was the least bad statement on immigration that he or George W. Bush have made in the SOTU addresses. It felt buried.
And despite the fact that the news media has been making it seem like immigration is about 60% of Mr. Obama's agenda for this year, he gave it only a perfunctory paragraph. Here it is:
Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year. Let's get it done. It's time."
Of course, we know the absolutely horrible things Mr. Obama would do under the term "immigration reform."
But it seems a good sign that he thought it would be harmful to his cause to tell Americans anything specific that he wants on immigration.
We had been told ahead of time that he would play nice with his immigration statement so as not to offend House Republicans who he is trying to win over. Still, I was a bit surprised -- and I think encouraged -- by his timidity.
REPUBLICAN RESPONSE SPEECH A BIT MORE TROUBLING -- BUT STILL ENCOURAGINGLY VAGUE
Republicans picked one of the House's top party leaders -- Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) -- to deliver the response.
Because many news media have practically declared the inevitability of House Republicans helping pass an amnesty this year, I was much more interested to hear what she would say.
Since she didn't really mention that many issues, it wasn't a good sign that she and her colleagues thought she should make such a big deal about immigration reform. Still, hers was also just a paragraph and more vague than specific:
And yes, it’s time to honor our history of legal immigration. We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world.
Why do I have a strong idea that Mrs. McMorris Rodgers hasn't the first clue about our history of immigration or what we should honor about it?
Is she aware of our immigration history of a century ago, when mass immigration like we have today created increasingly wide income disparity, a huge underclass and was a primary tool for keeping the freed slaves and descendants of slaves in virtual servitude out of the mainstream of American jobs? How does she propose to honor that history?
I am particularly concerned by her call that we make sure that America always attracts the "hardest working from around the world." Sounds like she is committed to helping the corporate lobbies import any foreign worker who they think will work harder, longer and at lower wages and benefits and working conditions than the Americans who employers otherwise would have to recruit and train.
Is there any chance that a person giving any of these addresses could note that the point of immigration policy is to protect Americans.
But her rhetoric is vague enough that the Republicans at their Chesapeake Bay retreat Wednesday through Friday won't have to embarrass her or seem to reject her when they show no enthusiasm for the GOP leadership's definition of "immigration reform."
APPLAUSE DURING OBAMA'S IMMIGRATION PARAGRAPH MAY HAVE BEEN TELLING
Back when I was a congressional correspondent sitting in the press box overlooking the SOTU proceedings, I took a lot of notes on how and when particular Members responded to parts of the speech. I had to depend on the camera feed for the TV networks, but I was intrigued with what I saw from the top 3 House Republican leaders during the President's immigration paragraph.
After his first sentence ending in "fix our broken immigration system," Vice President Biden quickly moved to his feet as did all Democrats in a pretty resounding ovation.
That certainly put Speaker Boehner in a tough position. He knew the cameras were on him. His corporate donors want him to give Mr. Obama what he wants. But Mr. Boehner also had earlier this morning seen a strong negative reaction from his Republican Members to the news reports about a possible GOP legalization plan. Does the Speaker rehearse his reactions ahead of time? What would he do on this one?
I was relieved that Mr. Boehner didn't seem to have the slightest inclination to stand the way leaders of the "other party" sometimes feel they have to when baseball, mom and apple pie are being lauded. Instead, Mr. Boehner gave a non-commital facial expression and slowly applauded while remaining seated.
The camera swung to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who was giving a moderate applause while looking very serious. At the edge of the camera shot was the No. 3 House Republican Kevin McCarthy also being careful not to look too enthusiastic, despite recently saying that he looked forward to moving legislation that gives work permits and legalization to most illegal aliens.
It looked like maybe a half-dozen Republicans were confident enough of their constituents to stand with the Democrats in the ovation.
At the end of the President's immigration paragraph, there was more heavy applause. The camera caught Mr. Cantor not joining at first and then offering a pretty slow clap.
I'm not going to read too much into what the various body language tells us about where these GOP leaders stand but I think it tells us worlds about where they think their constituency stands.
NUMBERSUSA COULD RUN ADS ON THESE COMMENTS FROM THE PRESIDENT
All of the following statements by the President tonight can be used as strong arguments for cutting legal immigration at least in half, putting stronger protections on guest worker programs and taking away the jobs magnet for illegal immigration.
Who knows, maybe Mr. Obama actually was sensitive to the fact that a lot of Americas would notice the discrepancy between his wonderful statements about putting Americans into jobs if he were to have made a specific call for more guest workers, for more immigration and for dealing with the labor shortages that his immigration policies are designed to tackle.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
Our job is to reverse these trends."
We know where to start: the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job."
The good news is, we know how to do it. Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make them. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees."
That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families; this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real. Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same – because we are stronger when America fields a full team. "
. . . we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete – and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise – unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American."
ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA
Updated: Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 2:41pm EDT