Obama: Immigration Overhaul Will Have To Wait

Obama: Immigration overhaul will have to wait
The president, at a summit with leaders from Canada and Mexico, says there is just too much on his plate to take on the difficult issue.

Los Angeles Times
Last update: August 10, 2009 – 8:39 PM

GUADALAJARA, MEXICO – Locked in a health care debate that is claiming much of his energy, President Obama acknowledged Monday that a push to overhaul the U.S. immigration system would have to wait until 2010.

Obama suggested it would be too ambitious to aim for a bill addressing such concerns as illegal immigration before the end of the year, at a time when he will be confronting “a pretty big stack of bills.”

Speaking at the end of a two-day summit meeting of North American leaders, Obama said his administration was meeting with members of Congress to try to come up with an immigration plan that would have bipartisan support. “When we come back next year … we should be in a position to start acting.”

As a candidate, Obama said that he would make immigration “a top priority in my first year as president.” But the economic crisis and realities of governing have forced him to reexamine how best to roll out his agenda.

Opponents of the existing immigration structure are dismayed by the latest timetable.

Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, an advocacy group, said: “I think we'd be smarter to move on it this year. There's a real hunger on the part of the American public to make sure immigrants are legal, are working toward citizenship, are paying their taxes and not being used by bad-actor employers to undercut honest employers.”

Obama said he is confident that he ultimately will prevail in providing a road to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States. But previewing the expected struggle to get such a bill passed, he said illegal-immigration foes would put up stout resistance.

“Now, am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done?” said Obama, speaking on a stage alongside Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “No.”