Obama puts immigration back in spotlight
WASHINGTON (CNN) — It’s time to fix the United States’ “broken immigration system,” President Barack Obama said Thursday, citing bipartisan support to revamp immigration laws.
His speech didn’t reveal anything that hasn’t been said before, but the announcement put the immigration issue back in the spotlight.
“We’ve kicked this particular can down the road for too long,” Obama said.
Immigration reform was placed on the back burner after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill in June that went nowhere in the House of Representatives. Controlled by Republicans, the House has said it would prefer to undertake a number of smaller bills instead of the one large package passed by the Senate.
Obama on Thursday called it a good bill that was supported by several Republicans.
“It’s good for our economy, it’s good for our security, it’s good for our people and we should do it this year,” he said.
But don’t expect a bill to sail through Congress that easily, a senior House GOP leadership aide told CNN.
“Expectations are low” that any immigration bill could pass this year, the aide said. “There is a sincere desire to work on this issue, but there’s also very little good will after the President spent the last two months refusing to work with us.”
Republican lawmakers have said that they prefer reform on a piecemeal basis and that border security measures must be put in place before the status of undocumented immigrants can be discussed.
Obama lauded the Senate’s immigration bill, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has already said that the House won’t do anything with it because the GOP opposes it.
“I expect us to move forward this year in trying to address reform and what is broken about our system,” he said.
A CBS News poll released Wednesday found public support for immigration reform.
There is widespread support for providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants if they meet certain requirements, including undergoing a waiting period, paying fines and back taxes, passing criminal background checks and learning English, the poll found.
The same poll, however, found that more people think that securing the country’s borders should be a priority over resolving the status of undocumented immigrants.
“It doesn’t make sense to have 11 million people who are in this country illegally without any … way to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, meet their responsibility and permit their families, then, to move ahead,” Obama said.
House Democrats introduced their own version of an immigration bill at the beginning of the month, one without the huge expansion of the Border Patrol included in the Senate bill.
One of the most contentious parts of the Senate version was a one-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Many Republicans have rejected any route to legal status as amnesty for lawbreakers.