While House Republicans continue to consider a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, on Tuesday President Obama on conceded that immigration reform cannot be achieved by this August as had been the target. However, the president did say that he was hopeful that a bill could be finalized this fall, a goal that many believe to be overly optimistic.
The president also reiterated his insistence that any legislation include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally, a provision that many House Republicans oppose.
“It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix this system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” he said in an interview with Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.
“And certainly for us to have two classes of people in this country, full citizens and people who are permanently resigned to a lower status, I think that’s not who we are as Americans. That’s never been our tradition.”
Although many Republicans view support for immigration reform as integral to the party’s national viability, many House GOP lawmakers representing conservative, and largely white districts see little incentive to back any immigration reform legislation.
On Tuesday, most members of the so-called “Gang of Eight”, the bipartisan group of senators that authored the Senate immigration bill, met in the Capitol with a large group of advocates from business, religious, agriculture and other organizations to urge everyone to work together to move the issue through the House. The senators distributed a list of 121 House Republicans seen as persuadable in favor of the bill and discussed refining a message for Congress’ month-long August recess, when House members will meet with constituents and potentially encounter opposition to immigration legislation.
“When we go into the August break we want to be sure everybody’s working hard and trying to make our case,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after the meeting.
The landmark bill passed by the Senate last month would tighten border security, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers. It would also provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence and then ultimately citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrations illegally in the U.S., one that includes paying fines, learning English, clearing criminal and security checks, and taking other steps.
House Republicans have balked at the Senate proposal, with GOP leaders saying they prefer instead to tackle the issue in smaller increments. Many GOP representatives also oppose the prospect of allowing people who came to the U.S. illegally to become citizens.