By Justin Sink
Vice President Biden used a Cinco de Mayo celebration on Monday to renew the administration's calls for Speaker John BoehnerJohn Boehner3 ways the next president can succeed on immigration reform Republican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (R-Ohio) to take up immigration reform.
Biden urged Boehner to "stand up" to other Republicans and move immigration reform legislation during remarks to a crowd of roughly 100 people at the Naval Observatory that included members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Boehner has been at the center of the immigration debate for months, with observers repeatedly speculating over whether he'd seek to move on immigration reform, which he's described as a priority, despite opposition from conservatives in his party.
Republicans have badly lost Hispanic voters to Democratic presidential candidates in the last two cycles, adding to the pressure on Boehner and other GOP leaders.
Republicans opposed to immigration reform legislation passed by the Senate, which would provide a pathway to legal residence for illegal immigrants, have been unnerved by some of Boehner's comments.
In April, he mocked resistance to immigration reform from House Republicans. Last week, he said he was only teasing his colleagues and insisted it was President Obama's fault that there was a standoff on the issue. He said Republicans didn't trust that Obama would enforce immigration enforcement laws approved by the Congress.
Biden said lawmakers should "redouble our demand" for the House to take up the Senate's bill and that passing comprehensive immigration reform would be a "shot in the arm" for the country.
“To continue the dreams of all the American people, we have got to get 11 million people out of the shadows," the vice president said. "It’s not just to benefit those 11 million people, it’s badly needed for the country. The country needs a shot in the arm, and this would give it a considerable shot in the arm.”
Biden also defended his comments in Miami earlier this year, when he said immigrants living in the United States illegally "are already Americans." He acknowledged he "got pretty roundly criticized" for the comments, but he nevertheless defended his assertion.
“They are Americans," Biden said. "They may not be citizens, but they are Americans. In the definition of Teddy Roosevelt: He said Americanism is not a question of birthplace or creed or line of descent, it’s a question of principles, idealism and character. And I would argue that those 11 million folks who have been here breaking their neck, working hard, they are Americans."
Last week, Obama met with Asian-American and Pacific Islander business and faith leaders to rally support for immigration reform. Press secretary Jay Carney said they were encouraged by Boehner's apparent willingness to advocate for a bill.
"Any indications that House Republican leaders are serious about moving forward on this are positive, and we hope and believe that there is still the will — or that there is the will, rather, among House Republicans to do just that," Carney said.
Biden isn't the only Democrat using Cinco de Mayo celebrations to push for immigration reform.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a statement saying the best way to honor the day when the Mexican militia defeated the French army at the Battle of Puebla would be to approve immigration reform.
— Russell Berman contributed.