President Barack Obama expects that an immigration reform bill will be introduced shortly after his inauguration, saying Wednesday that “we need to seize the moment” and tackle the issue.
At his first news conference since winning re-election, Obama laid out the elements that he wants in a comprehensive immigration reform bill. This includes addressing border security, enforcement measures for businesses that employ undocumented immigrants, and the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., including young people seeking a college degree or military service (“DREAMers”).
“I am very confident we can get immigration reform done,” he said.
The president voiced support for a “pathway to legal status” for undocumented immigrants not engaged in criminal activity and who are “here simply to work.” That process would involve paying back taxes, learning English, and potentially paying fines. The White House later clarified those who go through the process of earning legal status would eventually be eligible for citizenship.
“To give them the avenue whereby they can resolve their legal status here in this country, I think is very important,” the president said.
Momentum on immigration legislation has quickly escalated since Obama was reelected, partly because Latino voters who strongly favor reform make up a key component of his winning coalition.
Obama said that lawmakers are beginning to discuss immigration and that members of his staff are beginning to get involved in the talks.