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Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 4:33 p.m.

'Obama's Promise' is a political football

Candidate Barack Obama made this promise to Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos in May 2008:
"What I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I'm promoting. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible."
Didn't happen. When Ramos interviewed Obama on Thursday, he brought up "the Obama promise." "At the beginning of your (presidency)," Ramos said, "you had control of both chambers of Congress, and yet you did not introduce immigration reform. And before I continue, I want for you to acknowledge that you did not keep your promise."
Obama laid the blame on the economy. He then aw-shucked, "I'm happy to take responsibility for being naive here." As is his habit, the president then blamed Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, for playing politics on immigration. It was a low-road swipe at a senator whose support of an ill-fated 2007 bill nearly cost him the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.
An outraged McCain went to the Senate floor Friday to lambaste Obama for not offering "one piece of legislation" on immigration.
The fact is that George W. Bush worked harder to pass a comprehensive immigration package than Obama ever has. Bush pushed for a bill even though the effort hurt his standing with the GOP base. Obama faced no such obstacle. Yet during the two years when Democrats controlled Congress, he couldn't be bothered to introduce a path-to-citizenship measure or a DREAM Act to provide legal status to young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.
Under Obama, Congress didn't vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act until after the 2010 midterm elections, which would bring in a Republican majority to the House. The lame-duck House passed the bill 216-198. But then, as Obama pointed out, a Senate bill failed to meet the 60-vote threshold to overcome a GOP filibuster. Obama neglected to mention that the Senate bill would have hit the magic number if five Democrats had voted for it instead of against it.
McCain never has forgiven Obama for supporting a poison pill that toppled the fragile coalition behind the immigration bill. McCain was willing to risk his far-from-modest ambitions to pass a compromise measure that was 11 years in the making.
For his part, Obama opted for purity -- and kept alive a bill whose promise has kept the Latino community snuggly inside the Democrats' pockets.
"For Obama, it's a political issue to be managed," observed Mark Krikorian of the anti-amnesty Center for Immigration Studies.
Obama risked no political capital on immigration reform early on. Instead, he waited until 2012 and issued an executive order allowing DREAM Act wannabes to apply for "deferred action" that stops deportations and delivers work papers.
Obama overrode the will of Congress, so is it legal? Maybe voters will find out after the election.
Unashamed, the president told Ramos that the Latino community "can send a message that this is not something to use as a political football," by -- wait for it -- voting.
For Obama, of course. He never would use immigration as a political football.

Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Her email address is dsaunders@sfchronicle.com

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Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

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