Obama: 2-3 months for immigration reform
By: Seung Min Kim
May 13, 2014 02:50 PM EDT
President Barack Obama laid down a deadline for immigration reform on Tuesday, saying House Republicans have two or three months to act on an overhaul before midterm election politics take over.
As he met with more than 40 law enforcement officials, Obama pressed the case that Congress has a “very narrow window” to complete immigration reform this year. He accused a “handful” of House GOP lawmakers of stalling reform but added that a number of Republicans are “realizing that blocking immigration reform is not a good idea.”
“The closer we get to the midterm elections, the harder it is to get things done around here … it’s just very hard right before an election,” Obama said Tuesday. “So we’ve got maybe a window of two, three months to get the ball rolling in the House of Representatives.”
His comments reflect a sense on and off Capitol Hill that lawmakers could still act on immigration reform this year, but that it’s dead unless that happens before the August recess. Obama has previously emphasized the truncated timeframe — for instance, at a Cinco de Mayo reception earlier this month, he urged reformers to mobilize “over the next two months” — but Tuesday’s comments appear to be the firmest yet on a deadline.
The Democratic-led Senate passed a comprehensive bill last June, but House Republican leaders have ruled out that legislation in favor of their own approach. Obama stressed Tuesday that he was not “hell-bent” on making sure every word of the Senate bill, written by a bipartisan group of eight senators, reaches his desk.
Speaking before local chambers of commerce in San Antonio Monday, Speaker John Boehner — the House’s top Republican — said both Democrats and Republicans were “getting closer on the policy side in terms of how to deal with” immigration and that he was still committed to reform.
The administration is in the midst of a review of its deportation policies, after Obama came under withering criticism from immigrant-rights groups for the number of undocumented immigrants he has removed from the United States.
Law enforcement officials who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they left believing that the administration will make changes to Secure Communities — a controversial federal program that shares information about immigrants from state and local law enforcement with immigration officials.
Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters on a conference call following the meeting that the administration was likely to revise Secure Communities and other enforcement policies to target undocumented immigrants who posed a true threat to public safety. No timeline for the review was discussed, but Acevedo said he asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson — who is leading the effort — for results by the end of the month, in time for a national meeting of law enforcement officials in San Francisco.
“We’re gonna see a recharge, a reboot of Secure Communities” as a result of the review, Acevedo said on the call, organized by the National Immigration Forum.
Among the administration officials at the Tuesday meeting were Johnson; Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Alejandro Mayorkas, the deputy Homeland Security secretary; Alan Bersin, assistant Homeland Security secretary; and assistant Attorney General Tony West.
Law enforcement officials came from the following organizations, according to the White House: Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major County Sheriffs Association, National Sheriffs Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the Police Executive Research Association.