Immigration Reform 2013: Obama Says House ‘Piecemeal’ Approach Acceptable If It Includes Pathway To Citizenship For Undocumented

Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shake hands in February during the unveiling of a statue in honor of civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
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House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says he's deferring to the mandate of his party's majority in the lower chamber on immigration reform.  So far that's meant a "piecemeal" approach to legislation and no consideration of the Senate's comprehensive bill.  In an interview on Spanish-language news on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama said that approach was acceptable as long as the series of bills resolved "central issues", including extending a path to citizenship for the nation's undocumented immigrants, streamlining the legal immigration system, securing the border, and ensuring employers don't hire workers illegally. 

"If, in fact, Speaker Boehner thinks that procedurally he has to jump through a series of hoops, I'm happy to let the House work its will as long as the bill that ends up on my desk speaks to the central issues that have to be resolved," Obama told Telemundo. "We need to continue to make sure that our border security efforts are sound. We need to make sure that employers who are taking advantage of undocumented workers are penalized. We've got to improve our legal immigration system so that people aren't waiting for years to get into the country when, in fact... we should welcome them.  And finally, we should have a pathway to citizenship."

It's not actually the first time the Obama administration has signaled its openness to the idea of considering immigration reform through a series of bills instead of one large bipartisan compromise.  In early August, White House spokesman Jay Carney went back on an earlier demand by the administration that the House pass a single big bill, saying, "The outcome has to be comprehensive immigration reform.  How we get from here to there in the House is an open question."  House Republicans have resisted the big-bill approach, saying the size of legislation like the Senate's immigration bill or the health-care overhaul discourages the public from knowing what it contains.  Democrats and immigrant advocates accuse them of simply trying to duck compromise on the issue.

"Right now, everybody should be focused on making sure that that bill that's already passed out of the Senate hits the floor of the House of Representatives," Obama said in the interview.  "It's not as if the votes are not there. The votes are there...The only thing that's holding it back right now is John Boehner calling it into the floor.  What's stopping him from going ahead and calling that bill?"

"If those elements are contained in a bill, whether they come through the House a little bit at a time or they come in one fell swoop -- I'm less concerned about process, I'm more interested in making sure it gets done."

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