When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and President Barack Obama met one-on-one for an hour at the White House on Wednesday for the first time since 2012, they found they agreed most on one issue: amnesty.
At his press conference on Thursday, Boehner was asked, “When you sat down with President Obama this week, what was the one area where you found the most agreement, if any?”
After saying he was not going to outline what they discussed, Boehner replied, “We had a very healthy conversation on immigration.”
When asked if that was the answer to the question, Boehner responded by saying, “You asked the question … I gave an answer.”
Obama said that his greatest regret of 2013 was not getting comprehensive immigration reform legislation, which the Congressional Budget Office determined would lower the wages of American workers, enacted. Obama said that was his top priority for last year. He has also insisted that he would not sign any immigration reform law that did not have a pathway to citizenship for the country’s illegal immigrants.
But after the House GOP leadership released its “immigration principles,” Obama said he may be open to working with Republicans on immigration, as long as the law did not create “two categories of people,” meaning he felt whatever came out of the House would eventually allow illegal immigrants to gain citizenship.
After Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) blasted the immigration principles as “amnesty,” House and Senate GOP leaders said they would not move forward on immigration until Obama could prove to them he could be trusted with enforcing any new immigration laws. Amnesty opponents have indicated that GOP leaders may be attempting a head fake to buy time to secure the votes needed to pass immigration reform legislation that big-business interests like the Chamber of Commerce, along with the institutional left, desperately want.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) also said that he believed the “immigration principles” would eventually allow illegal immigrants to get citizenship, stating he did not believe there was anything in there that would permanently grant “second-class citizenship” to illegal immigrants.
Boehner did not gain the trust of amnesty opponents when he hired Rebecca Tallent, who tried to help Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pass comprehensive immigration reform, as his top immigration adviser at the end of last year. Republican leaders have said that immigration reform would be a top priority in 2014, with House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) saying that she thought it was still possible for immigration legislation to be enacted this year.
Amnesty advocates–like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)–have said that this year is the last chance to pass sweeping immigration legislation.