President Obama sat down with Lori Montenegro of Telemundo on Wednesday to discuss his hopes for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship.
Obama expressed optimism that the bipartisan group of eight senators working on a comprehensive immigration bill — four of whom toured the Mexican border in Arizona on Wednesday — would advance legislation in the Senate by April. While the “Gang of Eight” claim to be close to completing legislation, the president has said that he is prepared to step in and act if necessary
The Senate immigration bill is expected to focus on strengthening the border before putting forward a pathway to citizenship that could appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike. In fact, while touring the border on Wednesday, the senators witnessed a woman desperately trying to scale the 18-foot wall separating the United States and Mexico before being detained by Customs and Border Patrol officials, underscoring the problems with current policy.
The Senate bill will also include provisions that make it mandatory for businesses to confirm the legal status of their employees.
President Obama said during the interview, “The most important thing is that we’re seeing a strong commitment to finally solve this problem in a way that strengthens our border security, makes sure that there’s a pathway to citizenship, an earned one, a tough one, but a pathway so that people can live out their dreams and make sure that they have a better life for themselves and their kids.”
A majority of Americans agree with the president on this: A recent poll found that 71 percent believe “there should be a way for people in the United States illegally to remain in this country if they meet certain requirements.” A majority of that 71 percent would like illegal immigrants to be eligible for either permanent residency or citizenship. More than half (52 percent) of Americans surveyed “say the growing number of newcomers in the U.S. strengthens society.”
When asked what he expected to see come from the Senate bill, the president answered, “Well, we don’t know yet what the legislation’s going to look like. So I’m not going to guess. But what I do know is that if we have a smarter legal immigration system that is more streamlined, there’s a smoother verification process, and we’re reducing some of the red tape and bureaucracy, then we can make sure that those who are already in line are processed more quickly. People who are currently undocumented, living in this country, have to go to the back of the line. But if the front of the line is getting shorter, that means that they can move forward in this process more quickly.”
President Obama’s political pressure and the bipartisan collaboration in the Senate have raised hopes that comprehensive legislation will reach the president’s desk in the coming months. Obama told Montenegro during the Telemundo interview, “I’m not going to presuppose failure. I don’t know why you keep on asking about failure, because I think this is going to succeed. And I’m not concerned about the Democratic Party, I’m concerned about the people whose actual lives are going to be impacted by it. And I want to make sure that they have the capacity to move forward and live out the dream of immigrants that has driven this country for so many years. I think it’s good for our economy. I think it’ll be good for these families. That’s my number one priority.”
Watch a clip of Wednesday’s Telemundo interview, courtesy of NBC Latino: