Republicans will commit political suicide if they fail to pass immigration reform, President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhite House debates vaccines for air travel Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward MORE said Thursday during a town-hall meeting in Los Angeles.
“It's anybody's guess how Republicans are thinking about this,” Obama said. “If they were thinking long-term politically, it is suicide for them not to do this.”
He argued that the demographics of the country were changing and that Hispanics were becoming a larger part of the population. If Republicans fail to pass immigration reform, Obama said, a generation could conclude that the party didn't care about them.
At the same time, Obama said, “the Tea Party and others who often express virulent” opposition to immigration reform are making Republican lawmakers reluctant.
Still, the president predicted that immigration reform would pass Congress before the end of his presidency.
“Congress will see the light because the logic of it is too compelling,” Obama said. "I'm going to keep fighting on this.”
Despite his optimism that Congress would pass comprehensive immigration reform, Obama reiterated his pledge to take executive action on immigration in the period between the midterm elections and the end of the year. The president has said he's taking those steps because House Republicans failed to move on a bipartisan Senate immigration bill.
On Thursday, Obama hinted that one executive action he was contemplating would expand the H1-B visa program, which allows skilled immigrants to come to the U.S. to work. Corporate supporters of immigration reform have suggested Obama could extend work permits to the dependents of all current H1-B holders in a way that they would not count against existing caps, freeing up more visas for foreign workers.
Still, Obama warned, “whatever I do through the executive branch will not be as effective” as comprehensive immigration reform passed by Congress.