President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he wants Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill to “supplant” his executive action halting deportations of some illegal immigrants, but doesn’t expect such legislation from the Republican-controlled Congress anytime soon.
“Tempers need to cool a little bit,” Obama said when speaking to the Business Roundtable. “Certainly there will be pressure initially from the Republican caucus to reverse what I have done, even though what I did was the exact right thing to do.”
Last month, Obama announced executive actions to shield about 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.
“My suspicion is they are going to take a couple of stabs at rolling back what I’ve done, and them perhaps come back and say, rather than do something partial, maybe see if we can do something more comprehensive," Obama said.
Obama said he was cautious about an alternative approach to immigration reform that didn't include a pathway to citizenship.
"I'm not going to preside over a system in which we know these folks are in the kitchens of most restaurants in the country, are cleaning up most of the hotels that all of you stay in, that are doing the landscaping in most neighborhoods where we live, whose kids are going to school with our kids and we tolerate it because it's good for us economically to have cheap labor and services but we never give them a path to be part of this country in a more full and fair way," Obama said.
The administration is going to focus deportations on illegal immigrants who committed serious crimes, which Obama said should be the priority.
“We should focus on felons instead of breaking up families,” Obama said.
Obama talked about a number of issues, including trade, infrastructure, stagnant wages, deficit reduction and tax reform.
Though the business group frequently opposes Obama, he credited it with being “extraordinarily helpful" in promoting immigration reform.