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October 24, 2013

Obama: Immigration Reform Can't Be Swept Under Rug

by Dan Robinson

President Barack Obama has appealed again to the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would reform what he calls the broken immigration system.  Obama wants lawmakers to act by the end of the year.

The president's renewed push on immigration reform began after he and Congress achieved a temporary end to the partial U.S. government shutdown, and averted a potential debt default.

Last June, on a 68-32 vote, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill supported by Obama.  The measure, however, went nowhere in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Speaker John Boehner has not ruled out bringing an immigration measure to a vote.

"I still think immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed, and I am hopeful," said Boehner.

In remarks in the White House East Room Thursday,  Obama recognized what he called some big ongoing fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans.

But he said reforming the U.S. immigration system would help the economy grow, shrink deficits and strengthen national security.

"The American people support this.  It's not something they reject.  They support it.  Everybody wins here if we work together to get this done.  In fact, if there is a good reason not to pass this commonsense reform, I have not heard it," said President Obama.

Most political analysts say there is little chance the Senate-passed immigration bill will be taken up in the House of Representatives.

House Democrats introduced their own comprehensive bill that combines the Senate measure with a separate border security bill a House committee approved earlier this year.

But they reject a method favored by Republicans that would take a piece-by-piece approach to various parts of the reform legislation, which includes a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.

After the bitter political battle over the recent government shutdown, one Republican conservative, Representative Raul Labrador, asserted that President Obama could no longer be trusted in negotiations on immigration reform.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Republicans should take note of the large bipartisan majority that approved an immigration bill in the Senate.

"There is no connection between the Affordable Care Act and comprehensive immigration reform, and what I would remind Republican critics of it is there is enormous support in communities across the country, including business communities and faith communities and law enforcement communities.  I would also note that comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate with significant Republican support," said Carney.

President Obama says he remains willing to listen to new ideas on fixing the immigration system, just as he remains open to new suggestions on improving the health care reform law.

"We can't just sweep the problem under the rug one more time," said Obama.

In addition to strict requirements for a path to citizenship, the bill approved by the Senate last June includes provisions to improve border security, increase visas for highly skilled workers, and requires employers to electronically verify the legal status of workers.