Since the Senate passed an immigration bill in June 2013, the House of Representatives have delayed voting on the same bill or proposing new legislation.
“The year of obstruction has meant lost talent, when the best and brightest from around the world come to study here but are forced to leave”
On Monday the president said the country and economy would be stronger today if the House Republicans had allowed “a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill”.
“The year of obstruction has meant lost talent, when the best and brightest from around the world come to study here but are forced to leave and then compete against our businesses and our workers,” he added.
The remarks come after House Speaker John Boehner told Obama last week that there would not be an immigration vote in the House this year.
“Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-or-down vote on that Senate bill or any legislation to fix our broken immigration system,” Obama said. “I held off on pressuring them for a long time to give Speaker Boehner the space he needed to get his fellow Republicans on board.”
He added that “America cannot wait forever for them to act”.
The republicans’ main gripe with the proposed immigration reform hinges on granting amnesty to the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, including children who were born in the US but to undocumented parents.
The proposed policy passed in the Senate would also establish a clear path to green cards for PhD and Master STEM graduates and raise the cap on H-1B visas used to employ highly skilled workers to 110,000 from 65,000 making it easier for post study work.
Obama did not specify what actions will be taken but did say that he had directed Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Holder to identify additional actions the administration can take on its own within its existing legal authorities.
“If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours. I expect the recommendations before the end of the summer, and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay,” he confirmed.
“If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours”
Despite the clear change in tone and first criticisms directed at House Republicans, this not the first time Obama has spoken in favour of “common sense immigration reform”.
In this year’s State of the Union address in January he reaffirmed his commitment to make “immigration reform a top priority”.
And earlier this year, House Democrats launched a long-shot petition to force a vote on the bi-partisan HR 15 bill. The petition needed signatures from 19 House Republicans to reach the minimum 218 however and none have said they will sign.