President Obama may accept deal offering 11 million undocumented immigrants legal status
'I’m going to do everything I can in the coming months to see if we can get this over the finish line.' Until now, the President and other Democrats insisted that the deal give the undocumented immigrants a path to full citizenship.
By Dan Friedman / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
Saturday, February 1, 2014, 5:51 AM
WASHINGTON — In a major shift, President Obama on Friday opened the door to a potential election-year compromise on the contentious issue of immigration reform.
Obama said for the first time that he might accept a deal that would offer the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. legal status instead of full citizenship.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders had floated just such a proposal on Thursday.
Until now, Obama and other Democrats insisted that any compromise on immigration reform contain a path to full citizenship.
Anything short of that, they said, would create a two-tiered class system.
But in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Obama indicated a new flexibility.
“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,” Obama said.
In a Google Plus Hangout talk on Friday, Obama added, “I’m going to do everything I can in the coming months to see if we can get this over the finish line."
The two parties have been trying to strike a deal on immigration reform for 30 years with little success.
Conservatives adamantly oppose any path to citizenship for the undocumented, arguing it would reward people who have broken immigration laws. But Boehner and some other top Republicans believe a compromise can improve the GOP’s image with Latino voters and satisfy business interests that are clamoring for reform.
And the President is eager to secure a major legislative achievement on an issue that is critical to a major portion of the Democratic Party’s base.
A bill passed in 2013 by a coalition of senators created an expedited path to citizenship for the undocumented, but it stalled in the House.
In the CNN interview, Obama said that once undocumented immigrants gained legal status, they could then seek full citizenship through the regular application process.
“The principle that we don’t want two classes of people in America is a principle that a lot of people agree with — not just me and not just Democrats,” he said.
The proposal issued by Boehner is silent on whether those who obtain legal status could apply for citizenship.
But it would not preclude millions from trying to obtain permanent legal residence, often known as a green card, through sponsorship by an employer or adult child. Those individuals they could later seek citizenship.
“You could say there is no special path (to citizenship) under what Republicans are talking about,” said one Democratic aide tracking the issue. “But is still some kind of path.”
Although Obama and Boehner seemed to be finding common ground, a wild card remains conservatives in the House. Some are questioning the strategy of pushing a contentious issue that angers conservative Republican voters.