President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that he will work to change the politics of the immigration debate on children of illegal immigrants in 2011 by engaging Republicans and making his case to the American people to pass the DREAM Act.
[A]t minimum, we should be able to get the DREAM Act done, Obama told reporters on Wednesday as the latest Congressional session draws to a close and he comes close to marking his first two years in office.
Obama said that he would continue to call on Republican lawmakers to make changes to the nation's laws on immigration in the next two-year session of Congress starting in January, despite not being able to do so with a Democratic majority in Congress.
In recent weeks, Democratic Party lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation to give the children of illegal immigrants, who attended college or served in the military, a path to residency. The bill known as the DREAM Act, was defeated.
[M]aybe my biggest disappointment was this DREAM act vote, Obama said on Thursday in response to questioning by a reporter ahead of a planned trip to Hawaii for the Christmas holiday.
Continue Reading Below
He said it was heartbreaking that children who were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own at a young age later realize that they are at risk of deportation.
Any attempt at new legislation on the issue will be difficult. Republicans, at odds with Democrats on the immigration issue, gained control of the House of Representatives in the latest election.
And so I'm going to go back at it and I'm going to engage in Republicans who, I think, some of them, in their heart of hearts, know it's the right thing to do, but they think the politics is tough for them, he said.
Well, that may mean that we've got to change the politics. And I've got to spend some time talking to the American people, and others have to spend time talking to the American people, because I think that if the American people knew any of these kids -- they probably do, they just may not know their status -- they'd say, of course we want you. That's who we are. That's the better angels of our nature, he said.
Obama said he would he happy to engage with Republicans if they had ideas about more border security.
He said it was absolutely appropriate for the American people to expect that we don't have porous borders and anybody can come in here at any time. That is entirely legitimate, he said.
But I also think about those kids. And I want to do right by them, and I think the country is going to want to do right by them, as well, he said.
I'm determined and this administration is determined to get immigration reform done, Obama said.
Obama's approach to the overall issue involves stronger border protection, employer accountability and requirements that the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally admit to breaking the law, and pay fines and back taxes before being given the opportunity to apply for legal status.
He also defended his administration's stance on tough border controls, saying his administration had done more than any in recent years on the matter.