The White House strongly disputed an assertion by a top GOP senator that President Barack Obama said he would not act to secure the U.S. border with Mexico until Congress acts to provide illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
The suggestion made by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the second-ranking Senate Republican, is "not true," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said.
"The president didn't say that," Burton said at the daily White House press briefing. "Senator Kyl knows the president didn't say that."
Kyl said at a town hall meeting Friday that Obama had told him there would be a trade-off in order to win his commitment for beefing up security at the border.
"Here's what the president said: He said, 'The problem is, if we secure the border, then you all won't have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform,'" Kyl told supporters. "In other words, they're holding it hostage. They don't want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with comprehensive immigration reform."
Burton dismissed Kyl's remarks and said he assumed the White House would be in touch with Kyl's office to discuss the matter.
"What we need to do is everything we can to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. That includes not only securing the border, but a number of other things," he said. "That statement's not true, and we're going to just continue to work and hopefully get the support of senators like Senator Kyl for comprehensive immigration reform."