With comprehensive immigration reform about to get a Senate vote for the first time since 2007, President Obama pre-empted Republican arguments against reform with a full-throated defense of the bill at the White House Tuesday.
After pointing out that are fewer illegal border crossings now than in decades, the president said that the system is still broken. “To truly deal with this, Congress needs to act,” he said. “And that moment is now.”
Obama outlined the three major components of the proposed law: securing the border, creating a path to earned citizenship and fixing the existing legal immigration system.
“Now, this bill ins’t perfect. It’s a compromise,” he said. “Going forward, no one is going to get everything they want. Not Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me.”
Obama stressed the components of the law that are designed to meet Republican concerns. They include an additional $6.5 billion in border security on top of what’s being currently spent along with increased penalties for smugglers and employers who hire undocumented workers.
The bill as is includes immediate legalization that includes a process for immigrants to reach citizenship as the border is secured. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who played a pivotal role in crafting the bill as part of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” has been reportedly advising his fellow Republicans to not publicly support the bill. He’s hoping to force the implementation of a trigger that will require Congress to state that the border is secure before any citizenship is granted, claiming that this is the only way the bill can pass the House.
Despite Rubio’s advice, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) came out for reform over the weekend.
Most experts agree that the only way the bill will pass the House is with Democratic votes and weakening the Senate bill would make that less likely to happen.
The 2007 immigration bill died when conservatives crashed Congress’ switchboard with calls. But that doesn’t seem likely this time around, says the Daily Caller‘s Mickey Kaus. While many on the right object to reform, the monied interests want it.
“In fact, despite all the talk of polarization and Citizens United, the big money in the immigration fight almost unanimously favors a bipartisan, legalization-first bill. Kochs included. The GOP donor class is asserting itself, Ross Douthat has noted,” Kaus wrote Tuesday. He added that Rupert Murdoch’s support of the bill will keep Fox News from rallying the base.
With the “scandals” pre-occupying right-wing media, it seems reform has come at a perfect time.
“I want you to think about your own parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and all the men, women and children who came here,” President Obama. “The notion that all those who came through Ellis Island had their papers right — you know, had checked every box and followed procedures as they got on that boat. They were looking for a better life, just like these families. They want to earn their way into the American story.”