With time running out before the August recess, President Barack Obama continues to put pressure on the Republican-controlled House to approve an immigration reform package that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
He participated in four interviews on Tuesday, with Spanish-language television networks Univision and Telemundo, to make the case for comprehensive immigration reform, which he had hoped Congress would pass before the August recess. Now, the president isn’t too sure that will happen and indicated the immigration reform debate will continue into the fall.
“That was originally my hope and my goal,” Obama said during an interview with Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.”But the House Republicans, I think, still have to process this issue and discuss it further, and hopefully, I think, still hear from constituents, from businesses to labor, to evangelical Christians who all are supporting immigration reform.”
He added that the “smart thing” and the “right thing” for the House to do is to send the Senate-approved immigration reform bill to the House floor for a vote. Speaker John Boehner has made it clear that won’t happen unless the bill has support from the majority of House Republicans.
Initially, Obama kept his distance from the immigration reform debate taking place in Congress, fearing that by aligning himself too close to the issue, it could make it more difficult to attract support from Republicans. But that slowly changed with growing concerns that efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill could stall in the House.
Immigration reform with no path to citizenship ‘not who we are as Americans’
During the interviews on Tuesday, Obama reiterated that he won’t sign into law any immigration reform plan that doesn’t offer undocumented immigrants a chance to become U.S. citizens. He said that an immigration bill that leaves out a path to citizenship is “not who we are as Americans.”
“It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix the system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved, and certainly for us to have two classes of people in this country — full citizens and people who are permanently resigned to a lower status,” Obama said.
Republicans are still trying to figure it out
While almost all House Democrats agree on an immigration reform plan that includes a path to citizenship, House Republicans are still trying to figure out what direction they’ll take as a party on the issue.
Several House Republicans fervently oppose a path to citizenship, while some see the path as an essential component of immigration reform and others still haven’t made up their minds.
An area where most House Republicans are in agreement is the step-by-step approach to address immigration reform in the lower chamber. But Obama cautioned Tuesday that this piecemeal approach could result in only addressing some problems, like border security, and leaving out others, like a path to citizenship.
“There’s a tendency, I think, to put off the hard stuff until the end,” the president said. “And if you’ve eaten your dessert before you’ve eaten your meal, at least with my children, sometimes they don’t end up eating their vegetables. So we need to, I think, do this as a complete package.”