President Obama, attending a North American summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, vowed Monday to pursue comprehensive U.S. immigration reform later this year with a view to enacting legislation in 2010 that would provide a “pathway to citizenship” for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States.
Asked about the prospects for immigration reform in view of the blows to his administration over health care legislation and mid-term elections next year, Obama dismissed the idea that the elections would play a role, saying he would not act “on short-term political calculations.”
He said he regards immigration reform as being in the long-term interest of the United States. “We have a broken immigration system,” he said. “Nobody denies it.” Continuing on the current path means tensions with Mexico, danger for those trying to cross into the United States illegally, unfairness for those trying to immigrate legally, exploitation by unscrupulous employers, the depression of U.S. wages and other ills, Obama said.
“It’s not fair, and it’s not right, and we’re going to change it,” he said. But he said it was “very important for us to sequence these big initiatives in way where they don’t all just crash at the same time.” He said meetings have begun on immigration reform among House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano coordinating the discussions.
“I would anticipate that before the year is out we will have draft legislation, along with sponsors potentially in the House and Senate, who are ready to move this forward,” Obama said. Then, next year, “we should be in a position to start acting,” he said, although he acknowledged that “this is going to be difficult.” The overhaul would give illegal immigrants in the United States the opportunity “to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don’t have to live in the shadows,” Obama said. “So I’m confident we can get it done.”