President Obama on Tuesday signaled that he is open to the House passing immigration reform through a piecemeal approach, provided that legislation includes a pathway to citizenship and stronger border security.
“If, in fact, Speaker Boehner [R-Ohio] thinks that procedurally he has to jump through a series of hoops — you know, I'm happy to let the House work its will as long as the bill that ends up on my desk speaks to the central issues that have to be resolved,” the president said in an interview with Telemundo.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has said he will move immigration reform piecemeal, as opposed to a comprehensive bill.
Obama and Democrats have previously criticized the piecemeal approach, which proponents of reform believe would make an overhaul of the nation’s laws more unlikely.
Obama said he expected House legislation to contain several key measures.
“We need to continue to make sure that our border security efforts are sound. We need to make sure that — employers who are taking advantage of undocumented workers, that they are penalized. We've got to improve our legal immigration system so that people aren't waiting for years to get into the country when, in fact ... we should welcome them,” said Obama. “And finally, we should have a pathway to citizenship.
“If those elements are contained in a bill, whether they come through the House a little bit at a time or they come in one fell swoop — I, you know, I'm less concerned about process, I'm more interested in making sure it gets done,” he added.
Obama has said immigration reform is one of his second term priorities, but the issue has stalled after senators passed a bipartisan bill earlier this year.
Boehner has said the House will not vote on the Senate bill crafted by the “Gang of Eight” and that he will only move legislation backed by a majority of his GOP caucus.
Obama said Boehner “shouldn't be afraid of majority opinion" and should let the House vote on the comprehensive Senate bill, which he predicted would pass.
“The only thing that's holding it back right now is John Boehner calling it into the floor,” said Obama. “What's stopping him from going ahead and calling that bill?”
Many elements of the Senate bill are unpopular with House conservatives, who oppose measures they say grant “amnesty” to illegal immigrants already in the country. Conservatives say the focus should be on securing the border in any immigration overhaul.