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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Immigration likely a top topic at State of the Union address

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President Obama fulfills his Constitutional duty Tuesday night, giving Congress “information of the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Immigration is likely to be near the top of the list.

The White House released a picture of the President’s State of the Union speech on Instagram, albeit just a fuzzy image of a draft. But one topic sure to be clearly addressed in the final version is immigration reform.

Late last year, the President said immigration reform was "probably the biggest thing that I wanted to get done" in 2013. The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive reform measure, but momentum died in the House. The President is expected to renew his call for Congress to finish the job.

On hand to hear what the President has to say will be a pair of young undocumented immigrants who qualify under the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.  The pair were invited by the Illinois Congressional delegation. DACA is a temporary program that defers deportation for two years for those brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Also listening will be House Republicans. The day after the President lays out his ideas on the topic, GOP members head off to their annual retreat on the Eastern Shore where House Speaker John Boehner is expected to unveil a set of immigration “principles” that will become the basis of GOP legislation.

Missing from those principles will likely be a provision to grant citizenship to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Democrats insist it must be part of the equation; Some Republicans, including influential Californians such as Darrell Issa and Kevin McCarthy,  say legalization — not citizenship — is an appropriate way to allow the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. 

That battle with Democrats will have to wait. Republicans interested in immigration reform legislation may find their toughest fight is with members of their own party whose sole interest in immigration reform is tougher border security.

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