The White House on Thursday said it remained “optimistic” about the prospects for immigration reform after Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was skeptical legislation could pass the House this year because Republicans did not trust President Obama.
“We remain optimistic about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in 2014,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Carney said that Obama had already helped create a “bipartisan consensus” on the need for immigration reform, dismissing suggestions he had used the issue for political advantage instead of working for compromise.
“I think it's very important to look at what he's done already in helping build a bipartisan consensus in helping build the most effective border enforcement that we've ever seen,” said Carney. “Over the five years that he's been president, we've seen a significant improvement in our border security,” he added, citing the number of border patrol agents and newly deployed surveillance equipment to catch illegal migrants.
His comments came after Boehner told reporters he believed immigration reform would be hard to pass this year and cited GOP distrust of Obama. Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns that Obama would not properly enforce border security measures in any immigration package and that his vow to use executive actions to bypass Congress could undermine any agreement.
Carney said Obama had shown his good faith on border security, which conservative lawmakers say should be a priority in any immigration reform deal.
“That's an issue that I think has been of particular concern to Republicans as well as Democrats, and I think it's reflected in the fact that the legislation in the Senate that the president supports further enhances border security,” he said. “When it comes to the president's record on that, I think it speaks for itself.”
Carney also sidestepped questions about whether President Obama would use executive action to advance immigration reform if the House failed to act.
“There is no alternative to comprehensive immigration reform passing through Congress,” he said. “It requires legislation. The president's made that clear in the past, and that continues to be his view.”
Immigrant-rights groups are pressing Obama to use executive action to halt all deportations, but the president has said such a measure would not address the larger need to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
Conservative lawmakers, though, have warned that such an action could sink any hopes for comprehensive reform.