White House press secretary Jay Carney sidestepped questions Friday about whether President Obama was now open to immigration reform legislation that did not include a explicit pathway to citizenship.
Carney said that the president's belief that such a pathway should be included had "not changed" and was a "centerpiece" to his proposal for immigration reform. But Carney didn't say whether Obama would unequivocally insist on a special pathway in final immigration reform legislation.
The questions were prompted by an interview with CNN taped before the release of the principles on Thursday, in which Obama said he did not want to "prejudge" a bill that included legal status but not citizenship for illegal immigrants. On Thursday, House Republican leadership also offered a set of general principles that would provide a pathway to legal status for those in the country illegally, but remained silent on how or if those immigrants could become citizens.
"The details matter, and they matter a lot to millions of people across the country," Carney said, adding that it was still "early in this process."
Carney did say that the GOP immigration principles were a "positive development" in the push for comprehensive immigration reform.
"I think the fact that the House leadership is now talking about its principles is a good thing," Carney said. "That's what happened in the Senate — they started with principles and they moved forward."
He also repeatedly emphasized that a "diverse coalition" backed the president's principles for immigration reform, which were largely codified in a Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill.
"It's because it's the right thing to do and because it's so good for the economy and the country, for our security and for the capacity for this nation to continue to be the home of innovation and entrepreneurship," Carney said.
House Democrats have vowed that they won’t support an immigration bill that doesn’t include a pathway to citizenship for adults and children alike.
"To talk about legalization is to say that America is not the country we think we are," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said earlier this week. “They wouldn't even be second-class citizens, because they wouldn't be citizens. They'd be second-class residents of our country."
On Thursday, Pelosi said the immigration-reform principles unveiled by the GOP "raise more questions than answers," though she said Democrats “welcome” the gesture.
"It is our hope that the presentation of these standards signals a sincere intent to move forward with immigration reform," Pelosi said in a statement.