Jan. 31, 2013— -- Below is the English-language transcript of Univision's interview with President Barack Obama.
Program: Noticiero Univision with Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas
Content: Interview with President Barack Obama
Interview Date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
MES:Maria Elena Salinas
PBO:President Barack Obama
MES: Thank you Mr. President. You're starting you're second term taking on two very controversial and difficult issues: immigration reform and gun control. You said in your speech in Las Vegas … "the time is now." Gabby Giffords in a very emotional plea in the Senate hearing today on gun control said … "now is the time." Can Congress tackle both issues at the same time? And which one will have priority?
PBO: Well, there's no doubt that Congress can tackle both. Because both are important. We have to get comprehensive immigration reform. The system is broken. It's been too long since we reformed the system. And we're starting to see a bipartisan consensus built around this. So we need to take the opportunity and we need to do it fast. I don't want us waiting six months or a year to get this done. And there's no reason why we can't move fairly quickly. As the Senators do their work, start identifying where there's some differences. We can provide some technical assistance.
MES: Will one be easier than the other?
PBO: Well, my suspicion is we're seeing more bipartisan discussion on the immigration issue, than on the gun issue. But I also think that on the gun issue you're starting to see the gun owners, people who traditionally opposed gun control saying … you know what, when 20 of our children are shot by somebody whose disturbed, and when it's that easy to get these high clip magazines that can fire off hundreds of shots in a few minutes, that it's time for us to do a better job on background checks. To get control of these magazine clips … to really crack down on gun trafficking. And so I'm actually optimistic that we can get both done. Both will end up generating some opposition and some strong opposition. There will be passions on both sides. But I'm generally encouraged that the Senate seems to be having a serious conversation about these issues.
MES:You said in your speech that if Congress does not work in a timely manner on immigration reform you will send your own bill. And you will ask them to, in your own words, to vote on it right away. What to you is a timely manner? The Senate is supposed to introduce legislation by March. Is it weeks, is it months? What's a timely manner?
PBO: Well, you know if they can get a piece of legislation debated on the floor by March I think that's a good timeline. And I think that can be accomplished. Keep in mind that most of these issues we've done work on already. We have a pretty good sense of the work we've already done on border security. And any additional changes that need to be made. We already know what would be required to earn a legal status and citizenship in terms of paying a fine and learning English. And going through background checks and paying back taxes. So a lot of this work has been done. And in the past has obtained bipartisan support. So we've already drafted a bill.
MES: At what point would you intervene though? How much time -- do you have your own timeline as to how much you would give them, before you intervene with your own bill?
PBO: Yeah, as I said, if they're on a path as they've already said where they want to get a bill done by March, then I think that's a reasonable timeline. And I think that we can get that done. I'm not going to lay down a particular date because I want to give them a little bit of room to debate. If it slips a week, that's one thing. If it starts slipping three months, that's a problem.
MES: Will we have immigration reform by the end of this year?
PBO: I believe so.
MES: You can tell our audience "¡si se puede!"
PBO: "¡Si se puede!" But I want to remind the audience, because Maria Elena we've had this conversation for many, many years. The only way this is going to get done is if the Republicans continue to work with Democrats in Congress in both chambers in order to get a bill to my desk. And I'm going to keep on pushing as hard as I can. I believe that the mood is right. I was very pleased to see the Senators from both the Democratic side and the Republican side come together and put forth principles. Now they've got to fill in the details. But you know, the issue here is going to be political. Look, it's not that we don't know how to do this. It's not that we got technical problems. This is a matter of, as I said in my speech yesterday, us recognizing that comprehensive immigration reform will make our economy stronger. It is true to our traditions. It speaks to our future. It makes sure that young people who are here like the DREAMERs who want to contribute and want to join our military, want to start a business, that they have opportunities. And, you know, if we keep that positive mindset understanding that that is a strength of America that we attract talent from all around the world, then I'm confident that we can get it done.
MES: Most people believe that the biggest hurdle will be the path to citizenship. You have clearly said that it mustn't be included from the outset. Senator Marco Rubio says that he will not support a bill that does not put border security ahead of citizenship. Is this going to end up being a battle between you and Marco Rubio?
PBO: No, I don't think so. Look, we put border security ahead of pathway to citizenship. We have done more on border security in the last four years than we have done in the previous 20. We've seen a drop in terms of illegal crossings of about 80 percent since 2000. We have made enormous strides, put resources in, we've actually done almost everything that Republicans asked to be done several years ago as a condition to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform. Given that that's the case, it's not as if we haven't been attentive to border security and we will continue to be attentive to border security. What we don't want to do is to create some vague prospect in the future that somehow comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship will happen, you know, mañana. We want to make sure that we're very clear that this legislation provides a real pathway. Now that pathway will take some time. That even under our proposal, this is not a situation where overnight suddenly people all find themselves as citizens. They're going to have to earn their way to it. And they're going to have to go to the back of the line. We're going to have to clear out the, you know, existing lines, the backlog that we have in terms of legal immigrants. Because they did it the right way. We shouldn't punish them for not breaking the law.
PBO: So all those things are going to have to be put in place. But we have to put that in the place at the outset and make sure that people are clear that this pathway is real and not just a fantasy for the future.
MES: As you could imagine there are hundreds of questions. The questions that I have gotten on social media since I announced that I would be doing this interview. Millions of people are desperate to hear from you. They want answers. People who voted for you and people who are confident that this year, this time around you will definitely keep your promise. Most cases are very complex. But the most commonly asked question is, for example, one from Jonathan made on Facebook. "Under your plan what would happen to those who already have deportation letters. Also, would parents of U.S. born children who have been deported be able to come back under your plan?"