(Photo : Reuters)
Even with the nation still gripped in a fiscal crisis with Congress still arguing over the debt ceiling, President Obama told the nation Tuesday that he would push for a vote on immigration reform.
In a sit-down interview with Spanish-language network Univision, President Obama said that the stalled issue of immigration reform, which currently remains frozen in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, would become a top priority for him once Congress can agree on a deal regarding the debt limit.
"Once that's done, you know, the day after, I'm going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform," he told Univision, as noted by Reuters.
As the current political climate indicates, President Obama faces an intimidating battle to successfully pass immigration reform. While the issue gathered support from Democrats and even several top Republicans--the GOP looking to rebound after suffering stinging defeats at the polls in the November 2013 presidential election--the bill has encountered resistance as it passed to the House.
The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a bill in June from the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" Senate panel that would have created a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. However, Republicans in the House, some of which are denouncing the bill as offering "amnesty" to immigrants who came into the country without authorization, have stalled the bill on the floor, refusing to put it to a vote.
President Obama laid the blame at the feet of House Speaker John Boehner for the bill's delay.
"We had a very strong Democratic and Republican vote in the Senate," he said. "The only thing right now that's holding it back is, again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives."
Boehner has indicated that the House would not consider a dramatic immigration overhaul, and would pass immigration issues in smaller bills, including tighter border security measures. Immigration advocates, however, have opposed such a measure, as it means there would be little chance of legally giving undocumented immigrants a chance to become U.S. citizens via a "pathway," such as the one offered in the Senate proposal, which includes a decade-plus long waiting period along with the payment of back taxes and fines for time said immigrants have lived in the country unauthorized.
Several late year issues -- the crisis in Syria and now, the debt limit debacle -- have occupied much of Washington legislators' time. However, it appears the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill may be ready to head back into the battle for immigration reform after the fiscal crisis is over.
Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration reform group America's Voice, told Buzzfeed that with the GOP's public opinion numbers plummeting, it is possible that the Republicans could be open to discussing immigration reform more easily if Congress can work together to solve the fiscal crisis.
"It's at least possible with sinking poll numbers for the Republicans, with a [GOP] brand that is badly damaged as the party that can't govern responsibly and is reckless that they're going to say, 'Alright, what can we do that will be in our political interest and also do tough things?'" said Sharry. "That's where immigration could fill the bill."
A recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute indicated that Hispanics in the U.S. are three times more likely to identify with Democrats than they would Republicans, with 50 percent of Latinos identifying with Democrats while only 15 percent of those Hispanics polled identify with the GOP.
Meanwhile, advocates for immigration reform appear to be gearing up for another fight on that front.
"We're talking about it. We want to be next up and we're going to position ourselves that way," Sharry said. "There are different people doing different things, and our movement will be increasingly confrontational with Republicans, including civil disobedience. A lot of people are going to say, 'we're not going to wait.'"