Obama to draw few ultimatums in immigration speech

Carolyn Kaster/AP

President Obama will make no ultimatums in his immigration speech on Tuesday other than to insist that any legislation must be comprehensive, according to administration officials. 

Obama also wants immigration legislation to establish a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants, a proposal that makes many Republicans uncomfortable. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Monday that he doesn’t want a “special benefits” for illegal immigrants. Administration officials say Obama will not define how the citizenship has to occur in his speech Tuesday, but he will insist that citizenship is an eventual possibility for eligible undocumented immigrants.

The speech will mark the beginning of Obama’s public campaign to change country’s immigration system. A bipartisan group of senators made a similar proposal to the Congress on Monday. Administration officials are excited that they now have the best chance in a decade, or longer, to make sense of the country’s immigration system—to legalize 11 million illegal immigrants, to establish an economy-based system for future immigrants, and to smooth employers’ verification process.

Despite optimism on all sides, any small disagreement over provisions could stunt the legislative momentum. Immigration law is more complex than the tax code, and any tweak in one area messes up all the rest of them. The people directly affected by the outdated law are unlikely to be receptive to a legislation handled in a piecemeal fashion.

Obama is defining his role as the coach of a game that initially will play out in Congress. He has heeded the pleas of advocates from both political parties not to micro-manage the negotiations, which will be important in order to keep Republicans at the table. But, administration officials warn, if the process begins to slow, the president is prepared to step in with a broader role.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on board with this plan, saying he wants legislation out of the Judiciary Committee and on to the Senate floor as soon as possible. Republicans say it is important that the legislation be negotiated in the regular fashion through the Judiciary Committee. That’s exactly the plan, although congressional aides note that Reid is willing to step in and place a bill on the floor if the committee becomes deadlocked.

Obama has decided not to offer written legislation to the Congress, calming the fears of many in Congress that he will try to do their work for them.  The Senate “Gang of Eight’s” principles will function as the starting document for the negotiations. Obama is encouraged by the agreement, but he will make clear that he wants to see the principles morph into actual legislation.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.