WASHINGTON — Washington’s political cacophony will be muffled this week, with Congress in recess and President Barack Obama scheduled to travel outside the United States. Even so, the president’s trip to Mexico and Central America will shine a spotlight on efforts to overhaul America’s immigration system.
President Obama had hoped to go to Mexico touting new gun-control laws that would impede the flow of American firearms to Mexico’s notoriously vicious drug cartels. The drug war has claimed thousands of lives in Mexico in recent years, but Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has pledged to continue the fight.
“We will not abandon the fight against drug trafficking, drug production. Mexico’s government, my government, will continue to face these types of crimes," he said.
Gun reform stalled in Congress, but another issue of great importance to Mexico is very much alive: U.S. immigration reform. Many of the 11-million undocumented immigrants in the United States were born in Mexico.
Overhauling America’s immigration system is a priority for President Obama, as he made clear in his second inaugural address.
“Our journey is not complete 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," he said.
Immigration reform would be welcomed by Mexico’s leaders, and by human-rights advocates like Andrea Gonzalez.
“The reality is that migrants live there [the United States] and support the country through their hard work, their labors, the things they buy and the taxes they pay," she said.
A bipartisan immigration reform bill was unveiled in the Senate earlier this month. Although Congress is in recess, this week could prove pivotal in building legislative support for the proposal.
Lawmakers will be in their home states meeting with constituents. Voters’ strong support or fierce opposition to immigration reform could sway members of Congress for or against the bill when they return to work next week.