U.S. President Barack Obama greets law enforcement leaders from across the country after speaking to them in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on May 13, 2014 in Washington, DC.
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Obama warns ‘narrow window’ for immigration reform


President Obama warned on Tuesday that the “narrow window” for passing immigration reform in 2014 is quickly closing and may not happen if Congress doesn’t act soon.

“So we’ve got maybe a window of two, three months to get the ball rolling in the House of Representatives,” the president said during remarks to law enforcement officials Tuesday. “And your voices are going to be absolutely critical to that effort.”

MSNBC Live with Tamron Hall , 5/13/14, 1:26 PM ET

Election year brings big GOP ultimatums

NBC’s political editor Mark Murray joins Craig Melvin to discuss immigration reform and its impact on the 2014 midterm elections.
NBC’s political editor Mark Murray joins Craig Melvin to discuss immigration reform and its impact on the 2014 midterm elections.
Some Republicans have identified a similar deadline. Just last week Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said “if we don’t get it done by August it doesn’t happen.”

The president stressed the importance of fixing the nation’s “broken” immigration system not merely because it is the right thing to do, but also because “safety and security in communities all across America.” 

“The immigration system that we have right now makes it harder, not easier, for law enforcement agencies to do their jobs,” he said. “It makes it harder for law enforcement to know when dangerous people cross our borders. It makes it harder for business owners who play by the rules to compete when they’re undercut by those who would exploit workers in a shadow economy. And it makes it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs when large segments of the community are afraid to report crimes or serve as witnesses because they fear the consequences for themselves or their families.”

The president remarks on the heels of a stern warning from a major Republican-leaning support group. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue insisted Monday Republicans might as well forget running a presidential candidate in 2016 if they don’t move forward on the issue.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” he said. “I mean, think about that. Think about who the voters are.”

The president gave credit to some members of the Republican House leadership for their willingness to work on the issue during his Tuesday remarks. 

To their credit, I think Speaker Boehner and some of the other leaders there do believe that immigration reform is the right thing, but they’ve got to have a political space that allows them to go ahead and get it through their caucus and get it done,” he said, adding that he would be willing to work with the House to amend the version of the bill already passed by the Senate as long as some core principles remained.

House Speaker John Boehner drew big attention last month when he openly mocked members of his party for being unwilling to work towards an immigration reform solution. He has repeatedly noted that some of his colleagues don’t trust the president, and cite the issue as a reason to avoid 

“We’re at a point where my colleagues don’t trust that the president will implement the law the way we would see it passed,” Boehner said Monday. “So I’ve put the ball back in the president’s court. He’s going to have to do something to demonstrate some level of trustworthiness.”

The president urged the law enforcement officials to become more vocal advocates for the reform efforts, to help inspire action from some of the unwilling members of the Republican caucus. 

I just want all of you to know your voices, particularly over the next couple of months, are going to be critical,” Obama said.

“I think people have come to expect that I’m in favor of comprehensive immigration reform,” he continued. “I think that people anticipate that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is going to be in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. I think people understand that there are a lot of agricultural enterprises that know how important their immigrant workers are to them.”

“But it’s more important in some ways to get over the hump when they hear from unexpected voices,” he added.