|President Obama: Get immigration reform done by summer
By: Jennifer Epstein
January 30, 2013 06:52 PM EST
|President Barack Obama hopes to see Congress to pass a major immigration reform bill by early summer, he said Wednesday, as he blamed resistance on Capitol Hill for the failure to get the reforms done during his first term.
“I’m not a king,” he told Telemundo, as he followed up on his Tuesday trip to Las Vegas to unveil his proposals for reform with interviews with Spanish-language television networks. “You know, my job as the head of the executive branch ultimately is to carry out the law. And, you know, when it comes to enforcement of our immigration laws we’ve got some discretion. We can prioritize what we do. But we can’t simply ignore the law.”
Obama took executive action last year to change the federal enforcement of immigration laws, helping young adults avoid deportation if serving in the military or pursuing higher education.
He said he would push for legislation to make further changes. Though he’s left it to Congress to work out the details, the president said the White House has already written its own that he’ll send for an up or down vote if lawmakers are too slow.
“I’ve got a bill drafted. We’ve got language,” he said.
But he said that he hoped Congress would not force things to come to that.
“I think this is something we should be able to get done certainly this year and I’d like to see if we could get it done sooner, in the first half of the year if possible,” Obama said.
In an interview with Univision also taped Wednesday, Obama said he’s confident that immigration reform will pass before the end of the year. “Si, se puede,” he said at the prompting of interviewer Maria Elena Salinas, repurposing the slogan used by farm workers that was then turned into the English-language rallying cry for his 2008 campaign as “Yes we can.”
What’s still holding back action “is not so much technical as it’s political,” Obama said in his interview with Telemundo, which was conducted by Jose Diaz-Balart. “It’s a matter of Republicans and Democrats coming together and finding a meeting of the minds and then making the case. I’m hopeful that this can get done, and I don’t think that it should take many, many months.”
Diaz-Balart said he’d checked with the offices of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other Republicans supportive of the immigration reform proposal put out by a bipartisan group of eight senators on Monday, and that none of them reported having heard from Obama on the issue.
Obama said he was open to talking to anyone, but indicated that the outreach had to come from Capitol Hill. “I am happy to meet with anybody, anytime, anywhere to make sure that this thing happens,” he said. “You know, the truth is oftentimes what happens is members of Congress prefer meeting among themselves to build trust between Democrats and Republicans there.”
“They want assistance from us but sometimes they want it through back channels,” he added. “And, you know, if they want a public meeting, if they want private meetings, anything that is necessary to move this thing forward, we’re happy to.”
Some immigrants-rights groups have urged Obama to put a moratorium on all deportations until Congress works through its current reform push. But Obama said it’s his responsibility to continue overseeing the enforcement of existing federal laws.
“There are still going to be stories that are heartbreaking with respect to deportations until we get comprehensive immigration reform,” he said in his interview with Univision. “That’s one of the reasons I think it’s so important for us to go ahead and get this action done.”
Though both interviews focused on Obama’s new push on immigration reform, there were some questions on other issues, including gun control and the gun violence in Chicago that left dead a teenager who performed in Obama’s inaugural parade barely a week before her murder.
Obama didn’t speak specifically to the Tuesday killing of Nadiya Pendleton, 15, but he did address the rash of gun violence plaguing his hometown of Chicago. The city, where his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is mayor, has strict gun laws yet high levels of violence. That’s led some pro-gun advocates to argue that gun control laws don’t work.
But Obama said the problem is that the laws aren’t widespread. “The problem is that a huge proportion of those guns come in from outside Chicago,” he told Telemundo. “What is absolutely true is that if you are just creating a bunch of pockets of gun laws without having sort of a unified, integrated system — for example of background checks — then, you know, it’s gonna be a lot harder for an individual community, a single community to protect itself from this kind of gun violence. That’s precisely why we think it’s important for Congress to act.”
Obama listed implementing a universal background check system, limiting the size of magazines and cracking down on gun trafficking as key priorities, but didn’t mention renewing the assault weapons ban, something he’s said he supports. His omission of the ban comes after Vice President Joe Biden left it out during remarks on guns he last week in Virginia.
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