Photo: Barack Obama (Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama might accept an agreement on immigration reform that does not include a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States - as long as the measure does not bar those people from applying to become citizens via the standard mechanism.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that is being aired in segments, Obama suggests that he could accept that condition as long as immigrants are not barred from applying for citizenship once their status is regularized.
Leaders of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives have talked about a bill that would legalize undocumented migrants without specifically creating a path to citizenship.
“I think the principle that we don’t want two classes of people in America is a principle that a lot of people agree with, not just me and not just Democrats. But I am encouraged by what Speaker (John) Boehner has said,” the president told CNN’s Tapper.
“I genuinely believe that Speaker Boehner and a number of House Republicans, folks like Paul Ryan, really do want to get a serious immigration reform bill done,” he said.
“And keep in mind that the Senate bill and the legislation that I’ve supported already calls for a very long process of earning citizenship,” Obama added. “You had to pay fines. You had to learn English. You had to pay back taxes. And you had to go to the back of the line. And at the end of that, you could get citizenship.”
The president declined to say whether he would veto a reform bill that didn’t address the citizenship issue.
“I’m not going to prejudge what gets to my desk,” he said.
“If the speaker proposes something that says right away, folks aren’t being deported, families aren’t being separated, we’re able to attract top young students to provide the skills or start businesses here and then there’s a regular process of citizenship, I’m not sure how wide the divide ends up being,” Obama said.
The presidential interview took place before Republicans, meeting at their annual policy retreat in Maryland, were to present Thursday the outlines of an immigration bill that only considers a guarantee of citizenship for “Dreamers,” in other words, for young people who were brought into the country as children and are now enrolled in college or serving in the Armed Forces.