WASHINGTON – President Obama said Tuesday that the bipartisan immigration bill now before the Senate is the “best chance we’ve had in years” to fix a broken system and provide a route to citizenship for millions of immigrants who do not have legal status but contribute to the country every day.
Speaking in the East Room to an array of the measure’s supporters, Obama said there’s no reason Congress shouldn’t take action by the end of the summer – or no acceptable reason, anyway.
“There’s no good reason to stand in the way of this bill,” Obama said, “so if you’re serious about actually fixing the system, then this is the vehicle to do it.”
“If you’re not serious about it, if you think that a broken system is the best America can do, then I guess it might make sense to try to block it,” he said.
U.S. immigration law: Decades of debate
But some Republicans who say they’re serious about reform also say they're not sure they want to commit to an overhaul of the policy without greater assurances about border security.
Even as Obama began his remarks, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was on the Senate floor raising concerns about that issue.
The Senate holds its first vote Tuesday on a bipartisan immigration proposal that would ramp up border security and lay out a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million residents now in the country illegally.
The measure is expected to get the 60 votes needed to proceed, but it’s not yet clear it can pass with a strong enough bipartisan vote that could help power it through the House.
Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said he would vote Tuesday to proceed to the debate but that he wants tougher border security measures before he could give the legislation his final support.
“If we don’t guarantee results on border security, if we don’t guarantee to the American people that we actually are going to get serious about stopping the flow of people illegally crossing our Northwestern or Southwestern border, that is the real poison pill,” Cornyn said.
Obama noted that the bill will spend $6.5 billion on border security and noted that that illegal border crossings are near their lowest level in decades. The bill “isn’t perfect,” he said. “It’s a compromise.”
But there’s still no good reason to “play procedural games, or engage in obstruction,” he said. “That’s not who we are.”
Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook