Former Bush AG Gonzales chides Republicans on immigration

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales chided fellow Republicans on immigration, urging them to work toward comprehensive immigration reform.

Gonzales, the first Hispanic attorney general of the U.S., said it was a "failure" by both parties to have not achieved immigration reform yet, and warned against a proposal favored by some Republicans to amend the U.S. Constitution to deny birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

"My recommendation not just to the Republican Party but also the Democratic Party is that this country, our federal leaders need to pass comprehensive immigration reform," Gonzales said Sunday on Univision's "Al Punto" program. "Their failure, and it is a failure, has led to state governments taking action by passing state laws and we are going to have a patchwork network, of state laws governing immigration."

President George W. Bush sought a comprehensive immigration reform bill during his time in office, when Gonzales was attorney general, that would have given illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But conservatives in Congress balked at the proposal, which the administration was forced to eventually withdraw.

Gonzales said it was especially important to provide a federal solution to immigration, in part because of the disparate laws emerging on the state level. In particular, Arizona passed a stringent, new immigration law last year that would require anyone whom authorities suspect of being an illegal immigrant to produce proof of citizenship. The Obama administration has challenged this law in court.

President Obama has been organizing a push on immigration reform as of late; he met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and influential Latino figures and celebrities in recent weeks to discuss the prospects for reform. But he failed to advance even a meager immigration reform, the DREAM Act, through a friendlier Congress last year, even during its lame-duck session.

Obama will speak on the issue during a trip to Texas this week, though it's not clear whether immigration reform faces substantially better odds of passage during this Congress, given Republican control of the House.

Gonzales chided some elements of the GOP, though, who wish to change U.S. law, or even the Constitution, to deny "birthright" citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

"I think amending the Constitution should be reserved to those instances where we cannot solve an extraordinary problem through regulation or legislation," he said. "We all know that amending the Constitution is very, very difficult to begin with, but even if we were successful in changing birth right citizenship, it would not solve our immigration problem because most people that come into this country that are undocumented come here to find a better life, they don't come here to become U.S. citizens."