President Barack Obama said he won’t “walk away” from an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws in remarks tonight before an annual gathering of Hispanic members of Congress.
“I know that many of you campaigned hard for me, and understandably you’re frustrated we haven’t been able to move this over the finish line,” the president said at the Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual awards dinner in Washington. “But let me be clear: I will not walk away from this fight.”
Obama has regularly called for Congress to take up a revision of immigration laws to tighten border security, deal with the millions of people in the country illegally and create a mechanism for foreigners to work in the U.S.
Previous efforts to pass immigration legislation during the administration of Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, failed in Congress over disagreements on how to treat the estimated 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally.
“When millions of immigrants toil in the shadows of our society, that’s not just a Latino problem; that is an American problem,” Obama said. “And we have to solve it.”
Obama and other administration officials have said passing any kind of immigration overhaul would be impossible without Republican support. At least 60 votes would be required in the Senate to overcome opposition and ensure a final vote on legislation; Democrats control 59 seats.
‘Standing in the Way’
“Today, the folks who yell the loudest about the federal government’s long failure to fix this problem are some of the same folks standing in the way of good faith efforts to fix it,” Obama said tonight. “To make real progress on these or any issues, we’ve got to break the Republican leadership’s blockade.”
Obama also criticized Republicans in the U.S. Senate for holding up his nominations to ambassadorships and the federal courts.
“Right now, there are 21 judges who’ve been held up for months while their courts have sat empty,” Obama said.
Obama met with the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on Aug. 4 to ease the way for pending presidential nominations. The president has also used “recess appointments” to fill some posts, a process that allows him to bypass the Senate while Congress is in recess.
“We can’t afford that kind of game-playing right now,” Obama said.