President Barack Obama urged the Republican-led U.S. House to pass changes to immigration law, focusing on an issue that may benefit his party as the flawed rollout of his health-care law hurts his popularity.
“It’s up to Republicans in the House to decide if we can move forward as a country on this bill,” Obama said in a speech today in San Francisco, calling the nation’s immigration system “broken.”
Sixty-three percent of Americans favor providing a way for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to become citizens, provided they meet certain requirements, according to a poll released today by the Public Religion Research Institute. That number, which includes majorities of both Republicans and Democrats, matches a March survey from the Washington-based group that studies public opinion.
The Democratic-led Senate in June passed with bipartisan support an immigration measure that included a path to citizenship. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said Nov. 13 that he has “no intention” of considering the comprehensive Senate bill and instead preferred a piecemeal approach.
Obama said he’s “hopeful” about making progress on the measure, and would back Boehner’s step-by-step approach “as long as all the pieces get done.”
“I believe the speaker is sincere,” the president told a crowd in San Francisco’s Chinatown. “I think he generally wants to get it done.”
The Senate legislation would boost average annual gross domestic product growth by a projected 0.3 percentage points during the next 20 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate cited by the White House. The CBO also said that enacting the bill would reduce the federal budget by almost $850 billion in 20 years.
The president is seeking to pressure Congress to act as the issue of immigration has been overshadowed by the partial government shutdown in October and the flawed rollout of the enrollment website for the president’s health-care expansion.
A CNN/ORC poll released today showed that 53 percent of Americans disagree that Obama is honest and trustworthy, the highest percentage during his five years in office. Just 40 percent said Obama can manage the government effectively, according to the poll. The telephone survey of 843 adults was conducted Nov. 18-20 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Obama is in the second day of a three-day West Coast trip. In addition to the speech today, the president is attending seven fundraisers to help Democrats with 2014 election contests.
At the Seattle home of former Microsoft president and chief operating officer Jon Shirley yesterday, Obama told donors that immigration remained among his top priorities.
“The American people can’t afford to wait in perpetuity for us to grow faster, create more jobs, strengthen our middle class, clean our environment, fix our immigration system,” Obama said.
Earlier this month, Obama enlisted a group of business executives, including McDonald’s Corp. Chief Executive Officer Donald Thompson and Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman, to put pressure on congressional Republicans to pass an immigration law by year’s end.
A report commissioned by the Republican National Committee after the 2012 election losses encouraged the party to boost its voter engagement among racial and ethnic minorities including Hispanics, who supported Obama’s re-election with 71 percent of their vote, according to national exit polls. Republicans within Congress advocating a revision of immigration laws contend that it will be necessary to compete with Democrats in the 2016 presidential election.
In the PRRI poll today, roughly 6 in 10 Republicans and independents, and about 7 in 10 Democrats said they favored a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. The telephone survey of 1,005 adults 18 years of age or older was conducted Nov. 6-10 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
In 2011, 25 percent of the foreign-born population in the U.S. came from Asian countries, accounting to White House data. Asian immigrants account for 11 percent of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., according to the report.
Last year, Asian-Americans voted for Obama by 73 percent, exit polls showed.
Obama’s speech at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco was interrupted when a heckler standing among people on the riser behind him yelled that the president has “power to stop deportations for all.”
“Actually, I don’t,” Obama replied. “If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws.”