With the Senate voting Tuesday afternoon to begin consideration of its immigration overhaul measure, President Barack Obama pushed Congress to send him a bill to sign into law by the end of the summer and not miss an opportunity to deal with a problem that has festered for decades.
“There is no reason Congress can’t get this done by the end of the summer,” Obama said during an appearance in the East Room of the White House with advocates for an overhaul that would legalize 11 million immigrants. One of those advocates who spoke before Obama would be eligible for DREAM Act provisions for immigrants brought here as children.
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, in an interview with ABC News this morning, said he hoped a bill would be reported out of committee in the House this month and said he wanted a bill to the president’s desk “this year,” while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned on the Senate floor that “major changes” were needed to the bill there to get his support.
Just a few hours later, the Office of Management and Budget released a Statement of Administration Policy that noted the administration “strongly supports” the bipartisan Senate bill. “Fixing the Nation’s broken immigration system is an economic, national security, and moral imperative,” it said.
Obama spoke forcefully about the border security provisions in the bipartisan Senate bill — given that it is a principal focus of Republican angst.
“This bill would be the biggest commitment to border security in our nation’s history,” Obama declared. He also noted that the number of border security agents has doubled since 2004 and that there are more boots on the ground on the border now than at any time in the nation’s history.
Obama said that has contributed to a reduced flow of illegal immigrants across the border, but said the system remains “broken,” with employers who employ illegal immigrants able to undercut those who don’t and hurt U.S. workers.
The bill would crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and put in place a system where all employees would be checked for their status.
In turn, Obama said, the 11 million here illegally need a pathway to “earned” citizenship, albeit one that would take at least 13 years, require they earn English, pass a background check and pay taxes and a fine.
“That pathway is arduous,” he said. “This is no cakewalk.”
But, he said, people need a sense of certainty that on the horizon, “there’s the opportunity to be part of this American family.”
McConnell said he will vote to debate the immigration bill but will demand amendments to fix “serious flaws” in various issues. “These include, but are not limited to, the areas of border security, government benefits and taxes,” he said.
The Senate is set to take a procedural vote to begin debate on the measure this afternoon.
One area of concern McConnell noted was discretion given to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to develop and deploy a border security and fencing plan.
“I’m going to need more than an assurance from Secretary Napolitano, for instance, that the border is secure to feel comfortable about the situation on the border,” McConnell said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.