President Obama says he’s confident that he will be signing immigration reform into law by the end of summer, so long as Congress continues to move forward on the legislation at their current pace.
The president praised the efforts of the “gang of eight” that has been negotiating the details of the legislation, in an interview with Telemundo’s Lori Montenegro Wednesday.
“I think we’ve seen enormous progress over the last month and a half. I think both sides, Democrats and Republicans, have been very serious about the negotiations,” he said. “I’m actually very optimistic that when they return in early April that we’ll see a bill ready to move through the process.”
The president insisted the current impasse over a guest-worker program would not ultimately stall the bill. ”There are still some areas… about the future flow of guest workers, and labor and businesses may not always agree exactly on how to do this, but this is a resolvable issue.”
Those same senators backed his claim, telling reporters Wednesday they will be ready to unveil their plan when they return from recess in less than two weeks. Their remarks came as they toured the U.S.-Mexico border. As the president pointed out in his interview, border security has already been drastically improved under his administration, with fewer crossings than at any point in years, something that even former opponent Senator John McCain has admitted.
When it comes to the politically controversial pathway to citizenship, the president focused on eliminating red tape to help speed up the process for those willing to go through the process.
“If we have a smarter legal immigration system that is more streamlined, there’s a smoother verification process, that we’re reducing some of the red tape and bureaucracy, then we can make sure that those who are already in line are processed more quickly,” he said. “People who are currently undocumented, living in this country, have to go to the back of the line. But if the front of the line is getting shorter, that means that they can move forward in this process more quickly.”
Asked about the potential political pitfalls if the legislation were to fail, Obama insisted he’s focused on making the legislation work.
“I’m concerned about the people whose lives are going to be impacted by it, and I want to make sure they have the capacity to move forward and live out the dream of immigrants that has driven this country for so many years,” he said. “It’s good for the economy, it’s good for these people. That is my number one priority.”
The president also spoke about the impact on individuals when asked about marriage equality. “I think not only is it right and fair but also consistent with our constitution to recognize the rights of same sex couples,” he said. “It doesn’t mean everybody has to agree from a religious standpoint, it does mean that we are a nation where everybody’s supposed to be equal before the law.”
“I’ve known a lot of same-sex couples. For them to be treated differently is not fair,” he added. ”My hope is the court reaches these issues and we end up living in a country where everybody is treated fairly, that’s what I think is the most important thing about America.”