President Barack Obama charged Tuesday that some Republicans oppose comprehensive legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies because they are “suspicious” that the measure will swell the ranks of Democrats.
"I think some in the House who believe that immigration will encourage further demographic changes -- and that may not be good for them politically," he told Norma Garcia, of Telemundo's KXTX in Fort Worth, Texas.
Obama also rejected calls for a piecemeal approach to the problem – as advocated by some key GOP lawmakers – and said he hoped that the bill could reach his desk in the fall. The president had previously said he hoped it would be done before lawmakers head home next month -- and face voters potentially angry about the sweeping blueprint.
The president's comments came as he sat down for four question-and-answer sessions with Spanish-language TV interviewers, part of a White House push behind the measure, which has stalled in the Republican-held House of Representatives.
"I don't think that we're gonna see it before the August recess," Obama told Garcia. Republican struggles with the bill mean "we may have to go through several more weeks of work before we actually pass the bill. So it probably will -- hopefully happen in the fall."
And he told Maria Rozman of Telemundo’s KDEN station in Denver that “Republican House members are wrestling with it.”
“Many of their constituents are suspicious of this, suspicious of what immigration might mean for their political futures in some cases,” he told Rozman.
(Obama’s comments may have been directed at complaints from some Republicans, like Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who have described immigration reform as a way to give citizenship to “undocumented Democrats.” But at least he wasn’t concern-trolling Republicans, as some supporters of the overhaul have done.)
Obama rejected Republican calls for doing immigration reform piecemeal – notably by pressing ahead with tougher border security first, and only then taking up a potential “path to citizenship” for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants on U.S. soil today.
“The danger of doing it in pieces is that a lot of groups want different things. And you know, there's a tendency I think to put off the hard stuff until the end,” he told Garcia. “And if you've eaten your dessert before you've eaten your meal, at least with my children, sometimes they don't end up eating their vegetables.”
“So we need to, I think, do this as a complete package.,” he said.
Obama also rejected the notion that legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants must wait until U.S. borders are perfectly secure.
“We can't make it perfect. You're never going to have zero people crossing the border without the proper papers,” he told Rozman. “But we can't use that as an excuse not to solve the problem.”
“If we know that what we're doing right now is not working as well as it should, then let's fix 80% of it, 90% of it,” he said. “The fact that it might not fix 100% of it is not a reason not to significantly improve the system that we have right now."
Obama also sat down with two Univision stations, KMEX of Los Angeles and WXTV of New York/New Jersey.