Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has been one of the staunchest opponents of comprehensive immigration reform, said House members needed to “be on alert” after President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he would not mind if immigration reform were broken up into pieces–so long as all the pieces were passed.
“House members need to be on alert: it’s not step-by-step if the individual bills are combined into a comprehensive proposal in a backroom negotiation and delivered to the President’s desk,” Sessions said in a statement. “Instead, the House must insist that enforcement is accomplished before advancing any other immigration bills.”
Speaking at the Wall Street Journal CEO Summit, Obama said, “we know what the component parts” of an immigration would be, mentioning border security, enforcement measures, more legal immigration, high-tech visas, and a pathway to citizenship for all of the country’s illegal immigrants.
He suggested breaking up the “comprehensive immigration bill” into various pieces–and then passing them all, which would mean immigration reform would be piecemeal in name only.
“If they want to chop that thing up in five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don’t care what it looks like so long as they deliver on the core values,” Obama said, before adding that he did not want to carve out one piece like “agricultural jobs” or “high-skilled jobs” and leave behind the pathway to citizenship provision.”
“We’re not going to have a situation where 11 million people are living in the shadows,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to do it all.”
He also said that in conversations with Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), he did not “think the divide is wide” and said Republicans in the House had to feel “comfortable” meeting Democrats on immigration reform.
Obama was asked, “can you make it happen?”
He replied, “I’m actually optimistic.”
Obama did not mention the fact that the Congressional Budget Office determined that comprehensive immigration reform would lower the wages of working class Americans while he touted the economic benefits for big corporations. House Republican leaders have indicated they would not go to conference on the exact Senate bill, and Obama’s words indicate passing significant provisions of the Senate’s bill in a “piecemeal” way may be a way that proponents of immigration reform will attempt to pass the Senate bill without saying they did so in a “comprehensive” manner.
Sessions also said the Obama administration “is in a state of open defiance of federal immigration law” and House “members should tell the President: your immigration bill will dramatically surge permanent low-skill immigration at a time when 91.5 million Americans are outside the labor force.”
“We need to be helping Americans get off of welfare, off of unemployment and into good-paying jobs,” said Sessions.