Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Friday cautioned a conference of Latino officials that immigration reform was “truly complicated” and said all sides were to blame for its struggles. Hours later, President Obama offered up a fiery rejoinder: Reform is simple. And the Republicans are blocking it.
“The problem is not the lack of technical solutions,” Obama told a cheering crowd at the NALEO conference. “We know what the solutions are to this challenge.”
Obama brushed aside claims from Rubio and Mitt Romney that a compromise on the DREAM Act could be reached if only the White House had held off on an executive order halting deportations for young illegal immigrants. He repeatedly accused the GOP of bowing to their most extreme voices on the issue and asked for Latinos’ help to break the “stalemate,” a word he’s favored in stump speeches recently.
“We should have passed the DREAM Act a long time ago,” he said. “It was written by members of both parties. When it came up for a vote year and a half ago, Republicans in Congress blocked it. The bill hadn’t changed. The need had not changed. The only thing that changed was politics — and I refused to keep looking deserving young people in the eye and tell them tough luck.”
Obama acknowledged his recent action was a “temporary measure,” but said he was happy to work out a permanent fix as soon as the other side came around.
“For those who say we should do this in a bipartisan fashion: absolutely,” he said. “My door has been open for three and a half years. They know where to find me.”
As for Romney, who addressed the same crowd on Thursday, Obama said that “your speaker from yesterday has a different view. In a speech he said when he makes a promise to you he’ll keep it. He’s promised to veto the DREAM Act.”
In a rare point of agreement with his predecessor, Obama wholeheartedly embraced President Bush’s failed attempt to provide a path to legal status for America’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and institute a guest worker program. Again, he accused Republicans of abandoning the challenge of reform in order to please their most extreme members.
“Just six years ago, an unlikely trio, John McCain, Ted Kennedy, and President Bush, came together to champion immigration reform,” Obama said. “I, along with a lot of Democrats were proud to join 23 Senate Republicans in voting for it. Today they have been driven from the table by a small faction of their own party. It’s created the same kind of stalemate on immigration we form that we are seeing on a whole range of other economic issues and given rise to patch work of state laws that cause more problems than they solve and are often doing more harm than good.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.