Trying to jump-start his second-term agenda, President Obama called on House lawmakers Thursday to approve comprehensive immigration reform, saying that current system “isn’t fair.”
“We have kicked this particular can down the road for too long,” Mr. Obama said with supporters of immigration reform in the East Room of the White House. “This is the moment when we should be able to finally get the job done. Let’s go get it done.”
House Republican leaders said Wednesday they still intend to hold an immigration debate this year, but they won’t take up the kind of comprehensive reform plan approved by the Senate. After a 16-day government shutdown, the legislative calendar is short for Mr. Obama to get his priorities acted on this year.
The president said the Senate bill, which grants a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, would be good for the economy and for the country. He said Republican leaders should disregard the politics of the issue.
“I’m not running for office again; I just believe this is the right thing to do,” Mr. Obama said. “What we can’t do is just sweep the problem under the rug one more time. Let’s not delay, and let’s do it in a bipartisan fashion.”
He said the current immigration system is broken.
“It’s not smart. It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Obama said.
Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said through a spokesman that the president isn’t going to get his wish.
“The speaker agrees that America has a broken immigration system and we need reform that would boost our economy,” said spokesman Brendan Buck. “He’s also been clear that the House will not consider any massive, Obamacare-style legislation that no one understands. Instead, the House is committed to a common sense, step-by-step approach that gives Americans confidence that reform is done the right way. We hope that the president will work with us — not against us — as we pursue this deliberate approach.”