Clinton: Immigration put on back burner because of healthcare, economy

Former President Bill Clinton said Sunday that the sputtering economy and a longer-than-expected healthcare reform debate sidetracked immigration reform.

The immigration issues has arguably been pushed the forefront as the next issue to consider after the Senate finishes work on financial regulatory reform legislation. A controversial new law passed in Arizona that allows state police to ask suspected illegal immigrants for identification. has caused Democrats to say they will consider immigration reform before the fall midterm election.

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Asked on Spanish-speaking Univision network if there is hope for a comprehensive immigration bill to be passed this year, Clinton said "Well, I hope so and I think so. I think what happened...I think President Obama...two things happened: one is I believe that he thought that the healthcare bill would pass much more quickly. I can't blame him, I thought it would pass more quickly too...And secondly, as the economy got worse."

Immigration reform has caused a stir in the Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the leading negotiator on the climate change bill that was supposed to come up after the Wall Street bill, said he would withdraw his support for the measure if immigration comes first.

Graham has also been working on an immigration bill with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), but said that the Senate is not ready to take up the issue and Democrats are pushing it for political reasons.

Democrats have shot back, saying that the Arizona law underscores the need to create a federal plan to deal with millions of illegal immigrants in the country as well as border security.

Clinton said that people's worries about immigrants taking their job in a poor jobs market helped cause legislation to be pushed back because past efforts have included a path for citizenship for illegals.

"The more economically insecure people got, the more afraid they were that if we had immigration reform it will lead to even more difficulties for Americans to get their own jobs back," he said. "I don't agree with that, by the way."

But he said now that the economy is showing signs of life, now is the right time to address the issue.

"Now that it appears that the economy is growing again I think there is a new opportunity for immigration reform," he said. "My wife strongly supports it and the president said just in the last two weeks that he remained committed to it and thought we could take it up this year."

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