President Barack Obama announced his support Tuesday for a bipartisan compromise on immigration reform unveiled Monday by the Senate's "gang of eight." If the gang of eight proposal fails, Obama added, he will submit his own legislation to Congress.
"Yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I've proposed and campaigned on for the last few years," Obama told the audience at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The three principles that immigration reform should include, Obama said, are border security, a path to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants, and making immigration easier for immigrants trained in science and technology.
The most controversial of those proposals is the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
"We have to deal with the 11 million individuals who are here illegally," Obama said. "We all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship. We've got to lay out a path – a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line, behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally."
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and an advisor for The Christian Post, was in the audience and praised the speech.
"I commend [Obama] for his courage and call upon all the followers of Christ to pray for our President and Congress as together we marry conviction with compassion," Rodriguez said. "Additionally, as a member of the Evangelical Immigration Table, the NHCLC stands committed to an outcome that reconciles conviction with compassion, security with integration, all while recognizing the image of God in citizen and immigrant alike."
The Gang of Eight – Republicans Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Democrats Michael Bennet (Colo.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) – decided to announce their proposal Monday in order to get their ideas out before the president's speech. They were concerned that if Obama went first with his immigration reform proposals, their plan might be viewed as Obama's plan, which would diminish its support in the House of Representatives.
Obama's speech was modified, according to NBC's Chuck Todd, after the Gang of Eight announcement. The White House decided to lend their support to the Gang of Eight proposal, since it already has bipartisan support and will be the plan that the Senate will work on passing.
If the Gang of Eight proposal fails to pass in the Senate, though, it is unclear how a bill proposed by Obama would have a better chance of passage in both the House and Senate.