By Justin Sink
Immigration reform might not pass Congress if Democrats can’t hold their ground in the midterm elections this fall, President Obama told a Democratic fundraiser Thursday night in Chicago.
“Think about what’s at stake right now. Think about it. If we do not hang on to the Senate and make gains in the House we may not get immigration reform done, which means we could have another three, four years in which we're being deprived of talent we're training here in the United States — they go back home and start businesses someplace else,” Obama said.
In his remarks, Obama complained that Republicans “so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system."
He said that opposition came “despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it's going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.”
“When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism,” the president continued. “We say we're going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together.”
Obama's pessimism stood in contrast to comments made earlier this month by Valerie Jarrett, one of his top aides. During a forum in Las Vegas, Jarrett expressed optimism that House Republicans would move on reform before the midterm elections.
“I think we have a window this summer, between now and August, to get something done,” Jarrett said, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “We have a commitment from Speaker Boehner, who’s very frustrated with his caucus.”
On Thursday, the Speaker, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), said there was “nobody more interested in fixing this problem than I am,” but blamed the president for reticence among lawmakers to move ahead with a bill. Boehner argued the president’s implementation of ObamaCare had eroded trust in his ability to enforce immigration reform.
"When he continues to ignore ObamaCare, his own law, 38 unilateral delays, he reduces the confidence of the American people in his willingness to implement an immigration law the way we would pass it," he said.
Boehner also repeated that he would not bring the Senate immigration bill to the House floor.
"I made it clear we're not going to deal with the Senate bill, a 1,300-page bill that no one has read. And we're not going to do it," he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested Thursday that if Republicans don’t move on an immigration bill before the August recess, the president could act unilaterally. The Obama administration has said it is undertaking a review of how it could make deportation procedures “more humane,” while cautioning it still believed legislation was necessary.
"If they don't pass immigration reform then, the President will have no choice but to act on his own. We'd much rather pass legislation," Schumer said.