President Obama: Immigration ‘about people’
President Barack Obama Tuesday sought to bully Congress to push through his vision of immigration reform including amnesty for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. during a rousing speech to supporters in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“We need Congress to act on a comprehensive approach that finally deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in this country right now,” Obama said.
On Monday, eight senators, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced an agreement on a framework that will shape legislation that is expected to come to the floor in late spring or early summer.
“The good news is that – for the first time in many years – Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together,” Obama said.
The Senate’s plan would allow people “in good standing” in this country illegally to be put on a probationary status, go through a background check after registering with the government, pay any fines or back taxes. It would declare the border secure prior to granting citizenship to the people already here illegally.
Closely mimicking the Senate framework, the president’s proposal included increased border patrols, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, so-called “earned citizenship” and streamlining legal immigration.
After the Senate plan was unveiled, the White House indicated that the president wouldn’t be receptive to the Senate plan’s point on declaring the border secure before granting citizenship. The president’s proposal doesn’t stipulate that point.
However, Obama noted, if the Senate failed to act, he would send his own bill to Congress based on the principles he touched on in the 20-minute speech. “We can’t let immigration reform to get bogged down in endless debate,” he said.
Capitol Hill lawmakers have signaled that the president’s proposal stands little chance of passing the Republican-controlled House.
“We’ve been down this road before with politicians promising to enforce the law in return for amnesty. And then after the amnesty, they fail to make good on the enforcement promises. The American people should not be fooled,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the “gang of 8” senators, was a guest on the Rush Limbaugh Show Tuesday and pitched the Senate proposal.
“Either we succeed or we’re going to be the generation that’s held responsible for allowing the most incredible nation in human history to decline, and I certainly want to do everything I can to avoid that from happening…I know the president’s gonna take us in a direction that I would not be comfortable with and I don’t think it’s good for America. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what’s already a tough situation. So I pray it works out,” he said.
Obama, who acknowledged immigration would be a key emphasis in his second term during his second inaugural address earlier this month, cautioned the lawmakers who will inevitably stand in the way.
“In the coming weeks, as the idea of reform becomes more real and the debate becomes more heated, and there are folks who are trying to pull this thing apart… Remember that this is not just a debate about policy,” the president said. “It’s about people.”