House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said any push for comprehensive immigration reform “will require presidential leadership” and an "appetite" by Congress to move forward.
Pelosi told reporters Thursday that the principles for an immigration bill included securing the borders, protecting American workers and providing a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
“There seems to be a good deal of support for something like that, but the legislation would have to begin in the Senate,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference.
"If there is going to be any movement in that regard, it will require presidential leadership...as well as an appetite to move forward in Congress," Pelosi said, noting that she said the same when President George W. Bush took on the issue during his second term.
She made the comments hours before Senate Democrats were to unveil a draft proposal that requires benchmarks to be achieved on border security before settling the status of illegal immigrants already in the country. Obama has called for comprehensive legislation, but he told reporters Wednesday night that “there may not be an appetite” on Capitol Hill to "dive into another controversial issue."
Highlighting support for immigration reform, the Speaker said she recently met with a group of mostly Republican business leaders from Texas. “They came in to say that they thought the status quo could not be sustained,” Pelosi said.
She also addressed the restrictive new measure signed into law last week in Arizona, which requires authorities to demand evidence of citizenship from individuals they suspect of being in the country illegally. Pelosi offered little support for a House resolution condemning the law, saying inevitable court challenges and petitioning for a statewide referendum were better ways to overturn the measure.