While the lead-up to the State of the Union Address suggested that President Obama would stress “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” while Marco Rubio’s response would be focused on winning over the Latino community, the opposite occurred. With the exception of a few short passages about his immigrant family and friends, there was nothing in Rubio’s dry speech that indicated that he is a major player on immigration reform, nor did he decide to risk Tea Party disapproval by trying to win over the hard-right on the need for a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented. President Obama, on the other hand, addressed immigration reform in the first half of his speech and at greater length than he has in any previous State of the Union.
Obama did not set out any new proposals on reform in the speech last night; he did, however, put Congress on notice that “the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Now’s the time to do it.” He rejected the notion that months of hearings or independent commission work is necessary for reform, and clearly said that all the elements of a reform package are obvious to both parties, saying “In other words, we know what needs to be done.” Hailing the work of bipartisan groups in the Senate and House of Representatives last night sent a message to conservatives that he is willing to share the glory of passing reform, but only if they act now.
Beyond the need for speed, President Obama fought back against the notion that a path to citizenship could only be opened at some vague future date when the border is fully secured. He said that; “Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration’s already made, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.” The clear message last night was that the border is already operationally secure.
Nothing could have been clearer than President Obama’s final words on the subject; “Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.” Had Rubio been as direct and forthright last night, nobody would be talking about his Poland Spring Moment today.