© 2023 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Obama Urges Congress Not To 'Block' Immigration Bill


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.


And I'm Renee Montagne. The U.S. Senate has opened debate on a sweeping immigration bill. And President Obama says it's the best chance in years to fix what he calls a broken immigration system. The measure took a step forward yesterday when a big, bipartisan majority of senators voted to take up the bill. But it still faces serious obstacles, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: This is the first time in six years the full Senate has considered an immigration bill, and President Obama is cheering the lawmakers on. He says the bill has support from a broad cross-section of Americans. As he spoke in the White House East Room yesterday, Obama was surrounded by businesspeople, labor leaders, clergymen and cops.


HORSLEY: The immigration overhaul includes new resources for border security, penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants, and tens of thousands of additional visas for high-skilled and low-skilled workers. The bill also includes a lengthy path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants who are already in the country illegally.


HORSLEY: Obama outlined his principles back in January. But since then, he's left it to a group of Democratic and Republican Senators to craft the legislation and shepherd it through committee. While it was Obama's reelection and his overwhelming support from Latino voters that made immigration a front-burner issue, political analyst Ross Baker of Rutgers says the president himself has largely stayed in the background.

ROSS BAKER: It's a very delicate kind of minuet that he's dancing here. On the one hand, he wants to be identified with comprehensive immigration reform. On the other hand, if I can use the expression, he doesn't want to contaminate it with White House fingerprints. I think he feels - and probably with some justification - that the greater his involvement in the process, the more likely it is to alienate Republican votes.

HORSLEY: The immigration bill still faces serious challenges, with numerous amendments possible in the weeks ahead. Obama told lawmakers he's open to tweaks in the legislation, but he urged them not to stand in its way.


HORSLEY: One big test will be an amendment offered by Texas Republican John Cornyn. He wants to make sure the government actually delivers on the bill's security promises, including surveillance of 100-percent of the border and a pledge to capture 90-percent of illegal crossers. Under Cornyn's amendment, no one on the path to citizenship would be eligible for a green card until those conditions are met.


HORSLEY: Obama says in the last decade, the government has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, and the immigration bill would invest billions of dollars more. But the president argues those who are here illegally also need some certainty if they're to come out of the shadows. He says their future shouldn't be held up by a subjective measure of border security.


HORSLEY: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he hopes for a vote on the immigration bill by the Fourth of July. Meanwhile, House lawmakers are working on their own versions. Obama says if members of Congress are serious about fixing a broken system, now is the time to get it done. Scott Horsley, NPR news, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.