In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama urged Congress to “heed the call” of business, law enforcement and the faith community and “get immigration reform done this year.”
Predictably, the president's message got a mixed reaction. (You can view the full speech in the video window or read the text embedded below.)
More than half of Congress stood up and applauded his call for immigration reform, including El Monte Congresswoman Judy Chu, co-sponsor of the Democrats' bill on the matter. Speaking in the Capitol's Statuary Hall after the speech, Chu said the President "pushed as hard as he could on the issue, and he tried to do it in a way that would not alienate anybody. And I think that was extremely important at this point in time."
The speech did alienate Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. The Huntington Beach Republican said the President delivered contradictory messages: "You can’t tell me that you’re so concerned about the unemployed while you want to have immigration policies that will result in millions more non-Americans coming in here taking American jobs."
Rohrabacher said he’s looking forward to taking up the issue at this week’s House GOP retreat, where Speaker John Boehner’s immigration “principles” will be presented. Rohrabacher said his party is under “enormous pressure” to “give in” and make “illegals legal,” and he wants his colleagues to understand the “real issues.”
President Obama left for another day the debate over citizenship vs. legalization for the estimated 11 million undocumented living in the U.S. Democrats continue to push for a path to citizenship while leading Republicans say legalization is far enough.
Chula Vista Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas has publicly broken with the official party line, saying he'd support legalization to get something accomplished in the Republican-led House.
Vargas said Tuesday night he's had a "private" conversation with the head of the Democratic Caucus, Los Angeles Congressman Xavier Becerra. The two have "different perspectives," said Vargas, adding that the reality is "we've got to get a deal."
Vargas said he's willing to work with those "good-hearted Republicans" who want to work on immigration reform, "even if I get beat up by my own party."