President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObamas make MLK Day visit to homeless shelter Booker will attend inauguration Juan Williams: Race, Obama and Trump MORE will talk about the urgency of the need for immigration reform in a major speech on Thursday, but will not give a timeline for action.
White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters aboard Air Force One that he does not "anticipate a specific timeline" when Obama will address the hot-button issue in an speech from American University.
"It’s an issue that’s important right now," Burton said. "It’s important at the border. It’s important for folks who are employing people all over the country. It’s an important issue ... and the president thinks that right now, given the focus on it, it’s important that he makes clear exactly where he stands on it.
"There’s been the Arizona law, there’s been meetings about it, there’s been protests about it," he said. "He thought this was a good time to talk plainly with the American people about his views on immigration."
Burton said that "specifically, he thinks this debate is about accountability — accountability for securing the border, accountability for employers who are hiring illegal immigrants and accountability for those who are in this country illegally."
Obama has made immigration a focal issue this week, meeting at the White House with grassroots reform activists on Monday and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Tuesday.
The Obama White House has a history of setting deadlines that, while often missed, spur lawmakers to act with a sense of urgency, White House aides have said in the past.
But on the issues of immigration reform and energy, Obama and his aides have said only they would like to do something this year or as soon as possible. In April he conceded Congress might not have the “appetite” to act on immigration this year.