Immigration Reform On The Backburner

Obama won't look at immigration until 2010.

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The big political news today is that the president won't be doing anything with immigration reform until early next year at the earliest.

It's interesting that immigration is the issue that can wait, while the administration has sold infrastructure spending, auto company bailouts, healthcare reform, and many other issues as emergencies where action is needed either immediately or close to immediate, lest the economy tank.

Not to dismiss any of those issues, but immigration seems to be highly underrated as a tool for dealing with economic misery.  Many economists believe that immigration is the best anti-poverty program governments have ever devised. And we know that immigrants disproportionately start businesses that create new jobs.

So why can't Obama sell immigration reform as part of a stimulus? While it's true that the economic effects of immigration are lagging—it takes a while for someone to get a new business off the ground—we've seen that the stimulus dollars for building new infrastructure have also been to slow to take effect. So that doesn't seem like the best explanation. One simple explanation is that the people who would benefit the most from an easier path to legal immigration can't immediately vote. So, politicians don't stand to gain as much—in the short-term—by looking out for their interests.