President Obama in an address at the House Democratic retreat on Friday urged lawmakers to press ahead on immigration reform, saying it was an issue he could not fully address through executive action alone.
“There are some big things that we have to do that I cannot do through executive action, where we have to get Congress and where the American people are on our side,” said Obama at the House Democrats Issues Conference in Cambridge, Md., referencing immigration reform and raising the minimum wage.
Obama has unveiled a number of executive actions in 2014, vowing to push his agenda forward where Congress fails to act. But on immigration reform, Obama suggested that legislative action would be the only real fix.
“We have to remind ourselves that there are people behind the statistics, that there are lives that are being impacted,” said the president, urging Congress to act quickly.
“Punting and putting things off for another year, another two years, another three years, it hurts people. It hurts our economy,” he added.
Republican House leaders unveiled their immigration reform principles, but Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said action is unlikely this year, citing trust issues with Obama.
Conservatives fear that Obama will selectively enforce any reforms passed, prioritizing measures that would legalize the status of illegal immigrants over border security, which Republicans say should be a priority.
In 2012, Obama signed an order blocking the deportation of some young illegal immigrants. Since then, he has said that although he is open to considering executive action, a real fix must come from Congress.
Immigration-reform supporters are pressuring Obama to sign an executive order that would halt all deportations of illegal immigrants.
Obama, though, has said that he lacks the authority to do that and that doing so would leave larger issues with the nation’s immigration system unresolved.
The president on Friday said that believed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle “genuinely want to see this done.”
“But they're worried, and they're scared about the political blowback,” he added.