President Barack Obama gave a speech on Thursday, Oct. 24, calling on Congress to pass immigration reform. The president had been a supporter of one major overhaul, like the bill that passed the Senate earlier this summer, but in his speech on Thursday he expressed a willingness to consider Republican proposals to work on reform in separate pieces.
Back in June, Senate legislators passed a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. The bill included other changes, like increased border protection, as well, wrapping immigration reform into one package. However, it was held up in the House of Representatives. Some Republican leaders in the House worked on a piecemeal approach to reform as an alternative to the Senate proposal. But until his recent speech, the president had only shown support for a single major overhaul of the system.
In his address, he said he was willing to work on smaller pieces of legislation, as long as they created a path to citizenship.
“If House Republicans have new and different additional ideas on how we should move forward, then we want to hear them. I’ll be listening,” Obama said.
Effects of the shutdown
When the government shut down in early October because lawmakers could not agree on budget issues, immigration reform was put on the back burner. Since the Congress has made some progress, the president has been pushing Congress to refocus on reform.
“I just believe this is the right thing to do,” Obama said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the shutdown battle has put some Republicans on edge. Many do not feel comfortable working with the president, and would rather he remain out of the picture during negotiations.
“He has zero credibility,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told the Times. “If he wants to be helpful on immigration reform, he has to do what he has been doing for the past five years, which is nothing.”
Diaz-Balart as been working on a bill that would increase border security and allow some immigrants without legal status to pay a penalty before eventually applying for a visa.