Obama Confident Immigration Reform Passes This Year

Maria Elena Salinas talks to President Obama after his Las Vegas announcement on immigration reform.
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President Barack Obama expressed confidence on Wednesday that he would sign comprehensive immigration reform into law by the end of this year.

In an interview with Univision's Maria Elena Salinas, Obama explained that significant details of a bill still must be worked out by lawmakers, including the structure of a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. But Obama said that the progress made by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate has given him hope that a deal can get done.

See Also: Transcript: President Obama's Interview

When asked by Salinas if we will have immigration reform by the end of the year, Obama said, "I believe so."

"You can tell our audience, 'Sí, se puede?'" Salinas asked.

"Sí, se puede," Obama responded.

Later in the interview, Obama said that he hopes a bill could be passed as early as this summer.

But cognizant of deep divisions a topic like immigration has sewn in the past, Obama said that's contingent on bipartisan negotiations continuing to proceed well.

"The only way this is going to get done is if the Republicans continue to work with Democrats in Congress, in both chambers, to get a bill to my desk," he said. "And I'm going to keep on pushing as hard as I can. I believe that the mood is right."

Although the president threatened to introduce his own bill if negotiations in Congress stall during his speech in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday, he said he is content to let lawmakers hash out the details among themselves for the time being.

"If they are on a path as they have already said, where they want to get a bill done by March, then I think that's a reasonable timeline and I think we can get that done. I'm not going to lay down a particular date because I want to give them a little room to debate," he said. "If it slips a week, that's one thing. If it starts slipping three months, that's a problem."

The president's principles and the Senate's principles on immigration broadly align with one another, but there are still thorny issues that could spark a division between Obama and Republicans, such as the pathway to citizenship.

The Senate's path to citizenship would allow many undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status immediately upon passage of the law. But their ability to then seek legal permanent residency would be contingent upon the U.S.-Mexico border being deemed secure. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" on immigration, has been particularly vocal in stating that border security is a precondition for gaining legal permanent residence, and then citizenship.

See Also: What Will Be Obama's Immigration Legacy?

While the White House has said that it is withholding judgment on that plan until actual legislative language is drafted, Obama said that he wants a bill that makes it clear from the outset that undocumented immigrants eligible to earn their way to citizenship can eventually obtain it.

"What we don't want to do is create some kind of vague prospect in the future that somehow comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship will happen, you know, mañana," Obama said. "We want to make sure we are very clear this legislation provides a real pathway."

The president said that enhancing border security measures and workplace enforcement provisions are a part of his plan, as well as the Senate's, and cited his administration's efforts to bulk up border security during the past four years, saying that illegal crossings have dropped 80 percent since 2000.

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