Feb. 20, 2013— -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday confidently promised that Congress will pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, saying that a leaked copy of a White House proposal won't jeopardize the effort to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.
A draft White House immigration plan leaked to the press over the weekend, which frustrated some Republicans working on a bill, since Obama pledged to withhold his plan while lawmakers crafted their own. The White House claimed this week that the leak was unintentional and the president phoned GOP senators to reiterate that he supports the negotiations in Congress.
"It certainly did not jeopardize the entire process. The negotiations are still moving forward," Obama said during an interview with Univision San Antonio affiliate KWEX. "Information floats out of Washington all the time; that shouldn't prevent anybody from moving forward."
The president said that the fact the White House is drawing up its own plan should come as no surprise.
"I've said repeatedly that I want Congress to go ahead and negotiate and get a bill done. But what I've also said is we're preparing a bill so that if Congress doesn't do its job, we're going to go ahead and put a bill on the floor of the United States Senate," he said.
While immigration talks in Congress continue, at least one Republican lawmaker voiced deep concerns with Obama's plan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the proposal "dead on arrival," saying that it would repeat the same mistakes as past immigration reform efforts in 1986 and 2007.
Rubio aides have pointed out that Obama's plan does not include several items that are included in the Senate proposal, such as a specific "trigger" mechanism that would ensure that a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. could not be activated until certain border security metrics are met and an effective visa entry and exit tracking system is put into place.
While some differences between the White House and Senate plans exist, the president said that on the whole, they are very similar since they both include an earned path to citizenship, enhanced border security measures, and tougher crackdowns on busineses that hire undocumented immigrants.
"I think that most of the proposals being talked about by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House are roughly in the same area that I am," he said.
When asked about ending the record pace of deportations that have marked his presidency, Obama again shot down the possibility of taking executive action to halt deportations in the midst of negotiations over a bill. He very confidently promised that an immigration bill would pass.
"What I can promise is that we are going to get comprehensive immigration reform, but my job is to carry out the laws that are already in place," he said.
"I have extended as much flexibility as I can," he added. "That's why we've been able to do the deferred actions that have helped the DREAM Act kids. I can't go much further than this. At this point, I need Congress to act and I am very eager for them to get the job done."