President Obama has made it clear that comprehensive immigration reform — including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. — is a priority for his administration. And despite suggestions from Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that Congress needs to consider several smaller bills instead of one large piece of legislation, the president is not backing down from his push for a holistic approach.
But a few House Republicans say they’re unconvinced that Obama is serious about tackling immigration reform this year. GOP Reps. Raul Labrador (ID) and Jason Chaffetz (UT) both doubted that the president is “acting in good faith” on the issue during a Politico Live panel about immigration reform with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA):
LABRADOR: I’m working with Zoe. I’m working with [Democratic Congressman] Luis Gutierrez. I’m working with other Democrats in the House, and I believe they’re working in good faith, that they really want to get something done. But I’m not sure yet that that’s what the president wants to get done.
MODERATOR: I want to turn it back to you, Congressman Chaffetz. Do you believe that the White House is acting in good faith on the immigration debate so far?
CHAFFETZ: I don’t see them as any help in any way, shape, or form. […] I’m left wondering where in the world is the presidential leadership. I don’t see it, and there’s nothing in the evidence that would suggest the president has actually done or lifted a finger to help make this thing happen.
Watch the exchange here:
“A speech is not a bill,” Labrador added, saying that he is still waiting on the president’s immigration bill.
But following the November election, in which Latino voters overwhelmingly voted for Obama, the president set January as the point when his administration will start “an all-out drive for comprehensive immigration reform.” Even before Congress begins debating what should be included in the overhaul of the immigration system, Obama announced a deferred action policy last summer to grant qualified young undocumented immigrants temporary legal status. His administration issued a new rule earlier this month to ease the family reunification process for up to 1 million undocumented immigrants by allowing immigrants who can prove that time away from a parent, spouse or child will cause “extreme hardship” to return to the United States while they apply for legal status. And the Department of Homeland Security announced it would no longer issue a “detainer” request to local police to hold someone identified as potentially undocumented unless that person has been charged with a serious crime or convicted of multiple misdemeanors, limiting who would be detained under federal law.
These are important steps the Obama administration has taken that help keep immigrant families together, but there is much more to be done. Instead of blaming the president for not doing enough, Congress also needs to step up and pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill to fix the laws on the books.