President Barack Obama told Spanish-language news that he has confidence in the ability of the bipartisan “gang of eight” to produce a bill by early April and that he’s counting on it being “before the Senate” next month.
In an interview with Univision on Wednesday afternoon, Obama was asked if he would make good on his threat to put forward his own bill if the group does not unveil its bill after the Easter and Passover recess as promised.
“In terms of timing, I am actually optimistic when we get back they will introduce a bill, so I am not going to presuppose that they don’t,” Obama said.
Obama had previously warned that he would interject himself into the process with his own measure if Congress takes too long to act. But Obama on Wednesday said he was pleased with the progress the group of eight senators has made and believes they will produce a bill.
“My sense is that they’ve come close [to completing their work], and my expectation is that we will see a bill before the Senate next month,” Obama said.
Indeed, four members of the group visited the Arizona border Wednesday and said they were making good progress.
“I’d say we are 90 percent there,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., during a press conference from the border Wednesday. “We have a few little problems to work on; we’ve been on the phone all day talking to our other four colleagues who aren’t here.
Meanwhile, Obama told Univision that he is open to improving border security, but he stressed, as he often has, that his administration has already been working on it.
“The fact is that we’ve made enormous progress in securing the border,” Obama said. “We’ve put unprecedented resources on the borders. We know that a number of undocumented workers coming over the borders are at the lowest levels in 40 years. I think we all recognize that we could make more progress. But there is no doubt we’ve improved the border security system substantially, and what’s also true is that, given the size of the border, it’s never going to be 110 percent perfect. But what we can do is improve it.”
The Senate’s bipartisan bill is expected to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants contingent on whether the border meets some measure of security. The bill is expected to define what the criteria will be.
Obama is traveling to Mexico and Costa Rica in May. He said his agenda is to promote trade relations between those nations and the U.S., particularly with Mexico, given his priority of enacting immigration reform.
“At the beginning of May, I will go to Mexico first, and there is a new president there who has a very ambitious reform agenda,” Obama said. “I want to make sure we are talking to them about how we strengthen our trade relations, our commercial relations, issues with borders because hopefully when we get comprehensive immigration reform it’s important for us to be able to cooperate not only on border security but also [regarding] goods and services that move back and forth.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.