(MEXICO CITY) — President Barack Obama praised the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill and said he’s confident that the House of Representatives can also pass a plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas interviewed Obama during a two-day trip to Mexico, which he used to highlight the importance of immigration reform. Millions of Mexicans living in the U.S. could benefit from the proposal.
Obama said Friday he believes Congress will put a bill on his desk this year. But others have been more cautious. For example, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who helped craft the Senate bill, believes the bill needs stronger border security measures or it could fail in the House.
The one area where Obama said he would not compromise, however, is the path to citizenship. Asked during the interview whether he would sign a bill without it, Obama flatly replied “no.”
Some conservative lawmakers have raised concerns with the strength of the so-called security “triggers” in the bill, which make a path to citizenship contingent on attaining certain benchmarks in monitoring the border and apprehending illegal crossers.
“Clearly what we have in there now is not good enough for too many people and so we’ve got to make it better. And that’s what I’m asking for and that’s what we’re working on,” Rubio said. “This bill will not pass the House and, quite frankly, I think, may struggle to pass the Senate if it doesn’t deal with that issue, so we’ve got some work to do on that front.”
Obama said he is open to changes through the amendment process, but not ones that would significantly alter core elements of the plan: border security, cracking down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants, streamlining the legal immigration system, and a tough, but achievable, path to citizenship.
Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates have worried that making the triggers too strict would impede millions of legalized immigrants from eventually seeking citizenship, leaving them in a state of legal limbo.
Obama called the Senate bill a “good” product that was the result of compromise in both parties.
“There were details in it that I didn’t like, there were details in it that I liked,” he said. “I know that’s true for Sen. Rubio, and for Sen. [Chuck] Schumer, Sen. [John] McCain and everybody who was involved. That’s why it was a tough negotiation.”
The president said he’s confident that the House will be able to stomach a path to citizenship, even though many conservative lawmakers have decried the provision as “amnesty.”
“If those components are there, then I would expect that not only will I be supportive, but also I think we can get it through the House. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Z. Byron Wolf, CNN
Dylan Byers Sara Murray and Kevin Liptak, CNN
Dylan Byers, CNN