President Barack Obama is holding out the prospect that immigration legislation might pass Congress this year and is urging police officials to join with evangelical Christians and businesses to pressure House Republicans.
Obama is trying to rally supporters of rewriting U.S. immigration law to press for action during a two- to three-month window before lawmakers’ attention shifts to the midterm congressional elections in November.
“People expect I’m going to be in favor of comprehensive immigration reform,” he said today in remarks to law-enforcement groups. “It’s more important to get over the hump when they hear from unexpected voices.”
Evangelical groups, which have backed Republicans in the past, are a “powerful voice” that can be combined with business groups and companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Caterpillar Inc. to prod House Republicans to pass a bill that the Senate already approved, he said.
The Democratic-led Senate passed an immigration bill last June that includes increased border security and a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
House Speaker John Boehner in January published a framework for a law that would legalize undocumented workers without granting U.S. citizenship. That was put on hold when Republican lawmakers pushed back.
A spokesman said Boehner hasn’t changed his mind on opposing the Senate immigration bill.
“We have a broken immigration system, but it is impossible to make progress until the American people –- and their elected representatives –- have faith that the president himself will actually enforce the law as written,” Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Some lawmakers and advocates for a new immigration law said there may be an opportunity to advance legislation in June or July. Primary votes will be over in as many as 32 states by July, and House members will be at the Capitol for four weeks.
This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often,’’ White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “It is doable, absolutely.”