What Sotomayor Means for Immigration Reform

While it is still early in the effort to put Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court, my sense is that if she does make it, the prospects for passing immigration reform this year will improve. 

Part of the reason why has to do with how the White House has introduced her to all of us. The emphasis on her hard-scrabble roots, the classic immigrant struggle, her father who never spoke English, her own incredible success, is itself a deeply powerful repudiation of the other less than flattering narratives about Hispanic immigrants we've seen in the media these past few years.  As I wrote the other day, her nomination - along with many other moments - Bill Richardson's candidacv, President Obama's own story - is one more step in the American people's coming to terms with, and largely accepting, our emerging, much more diverse racial and ethnic demographic construct of the early 21st century.  

The acceptance of these new demographic realities, driven by the vast waves of immigration in the United States in recent years, is at the very core of our ability to pass an immigration reform bill along the lines of what we passed in 2006. As we have reported to you many times, in poll after poll taken over the past four years, a strong majority of Americans, between 55 and 70 percent, are willing to allow the 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working among us to stay, and build lives for themselves and their families here. For many Americans, this act of allowing the undocumenteds to stay is not just about fairness, and making sure taxpayers are not unduly burdened, but about accepting another huge traunch of Hispanic immigrants, accelerating even further the already dramatic demographic changes under way. 

For there should be no mistake about this - any civil society would have a hard time accepting the level of demographic change America is undergoing right now. That only 15-20 percent of the nation is up in arms about it shows once again, at its heart, what a good and generous nation America is.

Months of discussion of Sotomayor's inspiring story will be a daily and powerful antidote to Lou Dobbs and the other racial scapegoaters who have come to occupy the airwaves.  If she joins the court for the fall term, in September, it will be a powerful affirmation of our new direction, and an elegant table setter for a fall effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform before the end of the year. 

Kudos once again to President Obama. Few politicians in recent history have been as comfortable taking risks, of not taking the easy path, as he. And for that I am, once again, very proud of our President, that self described "mutt" we have leading us today, with grace, to a better place.