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Boehner: Immigration reform will help boost the economy

It wasn’t part of the jobs message he planned to pitch, but Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRepublican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare The disorderly order of presidential succession MORE said Thursday that immigration reform would help boost the economy.

“Immigration reform will help our economy, but you’ve got to secure the border first,” the Ohio Republican said after a speech at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. “We’ve got a mess and everyone knows we’ve got a mess.  

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“Our legal system is broken, our border isn’t secure, and we’ve got the problem of those who are here without documents,” the Speaker continued. “It needs to be fixed. We’re a nation of immigrants, the sooner we do it, the better off the country would be."

His immigration comments, in response to an audience question, weren’t part of his prepared remarks. They followed a 20-minute-speech in which BoehnerJohn BoehnerRepublican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare The disorderly order of presidential succession MORE laid out his five-point plan to jump-start America’s economy.

The AEI address served as the GOP’s closing argument before the November midterm elections and came just as the House was wrapping up its final day of votes before sprinting to the campaign trail.

Boehner didn’t offer many surprises in his speech: He called for fixing the U.S. tax code, cutting spending, reforming the legal system, reining in federal regulations and boosting education.

And the Speaker said opening up more areas for oil exploration and building the Keystone XL pipeline would “really get our economy humming.”

“We do these five things in a meaningful way, along with the coming energy boom, we can reset the foundation of our economy for the next two or three generations and beyond,” Boehner said.

Boehner argued that GOP’s first priority should be tax reform. He said all the focus on so-called corporate “inversions” — where U.S. corporations buy foreign companies and move their headquarters abroad to avoid taxes — was short-sighted.

“Inversions are really just visible symptoms of a much deeper problem: our tax code is terrible.  No one understands it, certainly not the IRS,” Boehner said. “So all this talk about inversions is just making the problem smaller.

“It’s fussing over a divot when the road is loaded with potholes.”

He also tried to inspire. When fall arrives, Boehner said, he’s reminded of how cities and college built memorials to honor those who perished during the world wars.

“Well, America has a tough schedule in front of it. We cannot avoid that. Nor should we try,” Boehner said during his pep talk.

“America is not merely obligated to lead. We are again called to lead,” he added. “And we are driven to serve in the same spirit in which our parents and grandparents built those living memorials — with humility and a desire to leave something that outlasts us.”

This post was updated at 3:43 p.m.