President Obama speaks on immigration reform in El Paso last year.
For many advocates of immigration reform, the post-election message to President Obama was not subtle: they turned out on Election Day, helped deliver a second term, and now it's Obama's turn to step up.
There's little doubt the president got the message and takes it seriously.
As soon as the confrontation over fiscal policy winds down, the Obama administration will begin an all-out drive for comprehensive immigration reform, including seeking a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, according to officials briefed on the plans.
While key tactical decisions are still being made, President Obama wants a catch-all bill that would also bolster border security measures, ratchet up penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants, and make it easier to bring in foreign workers under special visas, among other elements.
The blitz will reportedly start as early as January, with cabinet secretaries fanning out to "make the case for how changes in immigration laws could benefit businesses, education, healthcare and public safety."
Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of civic engagement and immigration for the National Council of La Raza, told the L.A. Times, "It's going to be early. We are seeing it being organized to be ready."
On Capitol Hill, legislative hearings are likely to begin in late January or early February, and the White House has told congressional offices that the president will be "all in" on this issue.
What's less clear is whether that'll be enough. Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen report today that Republican establishment leaders "insist they are now very much open to a comprehensive package, including eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants," but rank-and-file congressional Republicans "remain skeptical."
The problem, apparently, is that many GOP lawmakers are well aware of the election results, the polls, and demographic trends, but can't quite get around the demands of right-wing activists who dictate so much of the Republican Party's agenda.
Many of the Republicans who would have to vote on such a package -- and then run for reelection in off-year primaries and general elections dominated by white conservatives -- aren't so sure it's such a great deal. Regardless of exit polls, demographic trends and lectures from party leaders, lawmakers know that many voters -- especially primary voters, and especially their primary voters -- hate anything that smacks of amnesty. They will hate it even more, given that the issue is likely to come up just after GOP leaders in Washington have negotiated a tax increase.
"Political consultants in Washington are panicking about Hispanics, and their solution is to grant amnesty," said a conservative GOP lawmaker, who insisted on anonymity in order to speak candidly. "They're afraid Hispanics hate Republicans, so they want more of them? It doesn't pass the laugh test. This is an important issue with the Republican base, and members are right to be worried about getting primaried."
A comprehensive legislative package wouldn't need too many Republicans to pass, especially after Democratic gains in the elections. For that matter, some prominent voices on the right -- including folks like Sean Hannity and Karl Rove -- would provide political cover for wavering GOP lawmakers.
Regardless, the question isn't what Republicans will do if this becomes a leading national issue; the question is what they'll do when this is topic #1 in the political world.