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And, oh yes, immigration reform

But President Obama's focus on reform during the lengthy address to both houses of Congress struck many observers as being little more than perfunctory.

And as if to put an exclamation point on it, the president began his 38-word discourse on reform with a conjunction.

"And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system, to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation," Obama said to the applause of some members of the House and Senate.

By contrast, in his last State of the Union address, President Bush focused in detail on the immigration issue. After addressing border security, Bush turned his attention to dealing with the reality of as many as 12 million illegal and undocumented people in the U.S.

"We must also find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally. Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved. And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals," Bush said in his speech, delivered in January, 2008.

Two years and a new president later, immigration reform remains elusive though a bill, authored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and called the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, is currently before the House of Representatives.

That said, the Gutierrez bill is not necessarily the measure that will lead the way for reform-minded House legislators.

At the recent briefing in Washington for Irish American community representatives organized by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, and held just prior to those representatives attending a White House briefing that included reform on its agenda, former congressman Bruce Morrison pointed to California representative Zoe Lofgren as the House member who would be leading the reform push in the months ahead.

Lofgren, a Democrat, is chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Citizenship, Refugees, Immigration, and Border Security.

"I've pledged to work in a bipartisan manner to achieve practical immigration reform that works for America. Our current immigration system is broken, and I believe that comprehensive reform is the solution.

"We need to secure our borders, ensure that our laws are enforced, and promote family values with family unification, as well as regularize the status of those who currently live in the shadows. Any plan must also protect American workers, and provide for the legitimate needs of our economy," Lofgren states on her website.

With Lofgren expected to take the lead in the House, that role is already being played in the Senate by Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham.

The question is, will President Obama, faced with so many priorities that mow appear to be imperatives, also take a leading role in what the Los Angeles Times, in a report prior to the State of the Union speech, described as being "a tough sell" in the current economic climate.

What happens next draws different answers depending on source. The pro-reform Immigration Policy Center took the more optimistic view.

"Unless you were hanging on every word in Wednesday night's State of the Union address, you might have missed that the president reaffirmed his commitment to fixing our broken immigration system," the center acknowledged in a release.

"His commitment wasn't as specific as many of the things he has said about immigration reform in the past. In fact, this glancing mention of immigration reform has already caused a backlash among activists, many of whom are disappointed that the message was too muted and without teeth.

"But upon closer inspection, you might find the president's message of bipartisanship, American values and the importance of diversity translates into moving forward on immigration reform," the statement added.

"Immigration Reform has a shot of passing this year, but Obama's liberal supporters won't be happy with what they get," was how the Daily News in New York recently described the current situation.

Martin Kady, writing for the website Politico.com, was more pessimistic.

"Immigration reform is probably a goner," he opined.

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