Obama, who is visiting drought-ravaged California, told House Democrats on Friday they should continue pressing for new legislation that would result in an immigration overhaul that gives eventual legal status to millions of people currently in the U.S. illegally.
“Don't take your foot off the pedal," the president said during a closed-door session with Democrats gathered for their party’s annual issues retreat on the Eastern Shore, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In recent days any hope of new immigration reform legislation this year has dimmed, with rank-and-file Republicans in the GOP-controlled House expressing no desire to back any measure this year.
The lack of support from members has caused House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who was championing immigration reform a few weeks ago, to downplay its chances prior to the 2014 midterms in November.
That reality has caused consternation among Democrats and their Latino and minority constituents, forcing them to put renewed pressure on Obama to take executive actions to at least limit deportations of those in the country illegally.
“During a question-and-answer session at the retreat, lawmakers asked the president what more the administration could do, according to an aide in the room granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting,” the Times reported. “Many immigrant advocates want the White House to build on the steps Obama ordered in 2012, when he announced a halt in deportations of young immigrants who are in school or the military.”
In an interview Friday with Spanish-language Univision Radio, Obama confidently predicted that Congress would pass some measure of immigration reform before 2017.
“I believe it will get done before my presidency is over,” he said. “I’d like to get it done this year.”
“And I think sending a strong message to them that this is the right thing to do, it's important to do, it's the fair thing to do, and it will actually improve the economy and give people a chance,” Obama said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told The New York Times he is considering a more drastic measure: a rarely invoked procedure called discharge petition, which would bypass the House’s Republican leadership and send a sweeping immigration measure directly to the floor for a vote.
Used successfully only twice since the mid-1980s, the tactic would require an absolute majority of House members’ support. That would mean all Democrats in the House would have to support the measure along with a dozen Republicans.