The Obama administration "doesn't fear" a tough debate on immigration reform in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council said Thursday.
What matters is that Congress passes a bill that adheres to the basic principles laid out by President Barack Obama, including a road to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, Cecilia Muñoz said in a discussion with Efe and other Hispanic media outlets.
She said the White House wants to see the Senate pass the reform bill crafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" before the July 4 recess and hopes that a similar measure will emerge from the House by the time lawmakers adjourn in August.
Muñoz said the administration is willing to consider additional steps on border security, though she described the existing text as the "strongest bill with respect to immigration enforcement, certainly in recent memory, possibly ever."
"Any amendment, which in the name of border enforcement actually undercuts or eliminates a pathway to citizenship, strikes at the heart of what the Gang of Eight agreed to and what the president put forward in his principles," she said.
The bill now before the Senate includes a 13-year period for legalization of the undocumented people, an extra $3 billion for border security and sanctions for companies who knowingly hire unauthorized workers.
Meanwhile, the lower house also formed a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers to create its own bill, but no information about its contents has yet been released. However, Idaho Republican Raul Labrador withdrew from the negotiations this week due to the inability of the group to reach agreement on certain matters.
In a related development, the Obama administration responded angrily to House Republicans' largely symbolic move on Thursday to defund Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals initiative, which offers a reprieve from deportation to qualified undocumented immigrants.
"This amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve King, runs contrary to our most deeply-held values as Americans. It asks law enforcement to treat these Dreamers the same way as they would violent criminals. It's wrong. It's not who we are. And it will not become law," the White House said.
The potential Deferred Action beneficiaries are known as Dreamers because their situation inspired the long-stalled DREAM Act. EFE