Then and Now: Obama's Stance on Path to Citizenship

(Wade Payne/AP Photo)

President Obama has long said any immigration reform bill should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But as House Republicans discuss potentially providing undocumented immigrants a pathway to legalization, but not a pathway to citizenship, the president signaled he might be open to a deal that that leaves out the citizenship pathway he once advocated for so strongly.


In May, President Obama told Univision's Maria Elena Salinas he would not sign a bill that did not include a path to citizenship.

In a separate interview with Univision, the president said "I want to make sure we have a pathway to citizenship that is earned by folks who are undocumented here currently."

"It does not make sense to me, if we're going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix the system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved," Obama said in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo's Denver affiliate.


However, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper that aired today, Obama seemed to open the door to considering a plan that did not include a path to citizenship.

"If the speaker proposes something that says right away, folks aren't being deported, families aren't being separated, we're able to attract top young students to provide the skills or start businesses here and then there's a regular process of citizenship, I'm not sure how wide the divide ends up being," the president said.

"What I'm encouraged by is the fact that, that Speaker Boehner and others seem to recognize our country will be stronger if we are able to resolve this issue in a way where, you know, kids, for example, who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are Americans but don't have the right papers are not being punished," he added.

"The question is … is there more that we can do in this legislation that gets both Democratic and Republican support, but solves these broader problems, including strengthening borders and making sure that we have a legal immigration system that works better than it currently does," the president said.

While he may be open to giving House Republicans room to craft their immigration principles, the president made clear today he still wants to ensure immigration reform also allows people to become citizens.

"We should also make sure at the end of the day people are also able to become citizens," the president said in a Google+ Hangout.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today that the House GOP's draft principles shows progress and "movement," and that the president won't "prejudge" what House Republicans are considering.

"His view is the view of so many different people and constituencies across the country on the matter of … citizenship and creating a pathway to it, on the general principle that we shouldn't have a two-tiered society," Carney said. "But this is the beginning of a process in the House, not the end, and what he is saying is that he's not going to prejudge that process when at this point we have a single sheet of paper."