President Obama on Friday laid out a concrete marker for passing comprehensive immigration reform, telling a crowd of students in Mexico City that an agreement would be reached this year.
“I am optimistic that after years of trying we are going to get it done this year,” Obama said at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico. “I am absolutely convinced of it.”
It’s a bold prediction for a president who was unable to deliver on a similar promise in his first term, particularly considering all the roadblocks that remain on Capitol Hill. Just this week, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., predicted that the bill crafted by the so-called Gang of Eight would not pass the House without significant revisions.
And Republicans still question whether the Senate bill does enough to beef up border security.
The White House is banking that Obama’s trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, now in its second day, will improve the prospects for long-elusive reforms. Obama has mostly maintained a low-key approach on immigration, not wanting to deter ongoing talks on Capitol Hill.
Sensing momentum behind the issue, the White House calculated that Obama could step up his focus on immigration.
“The immigration system we have in the United States right now doesn’t reflect our values,” Obama told the students, pointing out his executive decision to halt deportations of younger illegal immigrants who would qualify for the so-called Dream Act.
Obama will travel to Costa Rica later Friday before returning to Washington on Saturday.