President Obama isn't promising Latino voters that immigration reform will be on the table in his first year. However, in the President's political strategizing, he definitely considers it a strong possibility for the beginning of his a second term.
The President made this statement in an off-the-record telephone interview with the editorial board of Iowa's Des Moines Register. The paper then later decided to publish the comments.
When asked how he is going to get legislation through given Republican opposition and the stalemate in Congress, the President said he sees passage of comprehensive immigration reform, right after resolving the issue the expiration of tax breaks and budget cuts, during the first year.
Obama reflected that if he wins a second term a big reason will be Latino voters whom the Republicans have so alienated. That's why the Republicans may well be more likely to work with him to pass legislation that will be perceived as positive by the Latino community. Obama also said that he has wanted to overhaul immigration since 2008 and that it was the right thing to do.
There's more. The transcript of the interview shows that Obama used the off-the-record opportunity not to beat around the bush, saying, "As this is off-the-record, I'm going to be very blunt?".
This statement can't be dismissed as merely playing to the Latino audience because the paper's readers are not Hispanic. Nor can his comments be ignored because they reflect his honest reflections about immigration given that his remarks were not meant to be released.
It is difficult to predict if Obama is correct in his assessment of how the Republicans will react if he is reelected. In the past, electoral defeat has made those opposed to immigration even fiercer in their opposition.
Whether or not that is true, we are confident that the President's words are a good sign for all Americans who believe in the need for and advantages of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. In practical terms, given the circumstances of the interview, the relevance is more significant than if this had been a political speech to Latinos.