President Barack Obama will discuss his administration’s proposals for immigration reform on Tuesday, a plan that will likely lay out a liberal spin on a separate bipartisan effort sponsored by the U.S. Senate’s “gang of eight” working group.
Obama, who has been criticized by his base for failing to tackle the issue during his first term, will highlight his administration’s suggestions during a speech on Tuesday afternoon, according to early reports. While the president has made immigration a top legislative priority during his second term, he is not expected to introduce new legislation. Instead, the White House will reportedly let Congress take the lead on drafting new laws.
But Obama’s speech will likely emphasize the partisan differences surrounding immigration reform that will foreshadow similar arguments in both the Senate and the House. The Senate plan’s “tough but fair” path to citizenship, which would allow undocumented workers to obtain legal residency, has been criticized for making full citizenship “contingent” upon the federal government’s success in improving border security and addressing visa overstays, a process that would take an unknown amount of time.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday would not say whether Obama supports that part of the proposal. Instead, he noted that border security measures “have never been better enforced than they are now,” noting 410,000 undocumented immigrants were deported in 2012.
Illegal immigration from Mexico was at a 40-year low in 2012, as a result of heightened border enforcement, a worsening U.S. job market and improved economic conditions in Mexico. The U.S. spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement that year, more than every other federal law enforcement agency combined, the Migration Policy Institute reports. The number of immigration-related deportations and prosecutions has also jumped, along with increased spending.
“In spite of (and perhaps because of) increases in the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents, apprehensions of Mexicans trying to cross the border illegally have plummeted in recent years—from more than 1 million in 2005 to 286,000 in 2011—a likely indication that fewer unauthorized migrants are trying to cross,” reports the Pew Hispanic Center.
Some Republicans are aghast that the plan even includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. U.S. Rep Lamar Smith of Texas, claims granting amnesty will actually encourage more illegal immigration, while fellow Texas Rep. Ted Cruz released a statement alleging the policy “grant special benefits to illegal immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country.”
The Washington Post reports Obama is expected to push for including binational same-sex couples in any legislation, giving them the same ability to apply for U.S. citizenship as married heterosexual couples. The move will almost certainly ruffle the feathers of congressional Republicans, particular in the conservative-led House.
U.S. Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz., one of the architects of the bipartisan plan, told CBS on Tuesday morning that granting those rights to binational homosexual couples is “not of paramount importance.” Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) claim LGBT-inclusive language was not included due to Republican opposition, Politico reports.