Chances look dim that an immigration bill will reach President Obama’s desk this year, but the president predicted Thursday that Congress will tackle the issue before he leaves office.
“I believe it will get done before my presidency is over,” Obama said during an interview with Univision Radio host Raul Brindis. “I’d like to get it done this year.”
Obama has listed immigration reform as a top priority ever since his first presidential campaign, but, thus far, Congress and he have failed to deliver a comprehensive overhaul that addresses the nation’s 11.7 undocumented immigrants.
Last year, the Senate passed a sweeping bill that would do just that. The House, however, has not passed any legislation. The chances of passing a bill could become even slimmer during the next two years, with midterm and presidential elections on the horizon.
Republican leaders in the lower chamber recently released a set of principles, which gave advocates hope that lawmakers could act this year. But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) threw cold water on the issue last week, when he said that it’s difficult to pass legislation because his party’s rank-and-file doesn’t trust the president.
Obama has not escaped blame, either. Latino activists have pressured the president to take executive action to cut back on deportations, which have reached a record level during his tenure. This spring, the number of deportations under Obama will hit 2 million. That’s roughly equal to the amount during George W. Bush’s entire presidency.
The pressure on Obama to act has continued to mount, particularly from Latinos who backed him by a nearly three-to-one margin in 2012. So far, the president has said he won’t take further executive action on deportations.
“I’ve been able to prevent deportations of younger people with, the Dream Act kids, by administrative action,” he said. “But the problem is that’s just a temporary action that I’ve been taking. That’s not yet the law that’s been passed by Congress. And it doesn’t help their parents and others who are in the similar situations.”
Obama encouraged listeners to urge Republican lawmakers to take up their own bill.
“The main thing people can do right now is put pressure on Republicans who have refused so far to act,” he said. “And I think sending a strong message to them that this is the right thing to do, it’s important to do, it’s the fair thing to do, and it will actually improve the economy and give people a chance.”
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.