Transcript: President Obama on immigration reform & relations with Mexico – April 30, 2013 press conference

Transcript of remarks by President Barack Obama on immigration reform and relations with Mexico. The press conference was held on April 30, 2013:

Thank you, Mr. President. Two questions. There are concerns about how the immigration bill from the House has complicated chances for immigration reform in the Senate. It seems to be a more conservative proposal. Is there room for a more conservative proposal than the one presented in the Senate? That’s immigration.

Second, on Mexico — yesterday, the Mexican government said all contact with the U.S. law enforcement will now go through a single door, the Federal Interior Ministry. Is this change good for the U.S. relationship with Mexico? Do you think the level of security and cooperation can be maintained?

President Barack Obama:
On immigration reform, I’ve been impressed by the work that was done by the Gang of Eight in the Senate. The bill that they produced is not the bill that I would have written, there are elements of it that I would change, but I do think that it meets the basic criteria that I laid out from the start, which is: We’ve got to have more effective border security — although it should build on the great improvements that have been made on border security over the last four to five years. We should make sure that we are cracking down on employers that are gaming the system. We should make the legal immigration system work more effectively so that the waits are not as burdensome, the bureaucracy is not as complicated, so that we can continue to attract the best and the brightest from around the world to our shores in a legal fashion. And we want to make sure that we’ve got a pathway to citizenship that is tough, but allows people to earn over time their legal status here in this country.

And the Senate bill meets those criteria — in some cases not in the way that I would, but it meets those basic criteria. And I think it’s a testament to the senators that were involved that they made some tough choices and made some tough compromises in order to hammer out that bill.

Now, I haven’t seen what members of the House are yet proposing. And maybe they think that they can answer some of those questions differently or better. And I think we’ve got to be open-minded in seeing what they come up with. The bottom line, though, is, is that they’ve still got to meet those basic criteria: Is it making the border safer? Is it dealing with employers in how they work with the government to make sure that people are not being taken advantage of, or taking advantage of the system? Are we improving our legal immigration system? And are we creating a pathway for citizenship for the 11 million or so who are undocumented in this country?

And if they meet those criteria but they’re slightly different than the Senate bill, then I think that we should be able to come up with an appropriate compromise. If it doesn’t meet those criteria, then I will not support such a bill. So we’ll have to wait and see.

When it comes to Mexico, I’m very much looking forward to taking the trip down to Mexico to see the new President, Peña Nieto. I had a chance to meet him here, but this will be the first, more extensive consultations and it will be an opportunity for his ministers, my Cabinet members who are participating to really hammer out some of these issues.

A lot of the focus is going to be on economics. We’ve spent so much time on security issues between the United States and Mexico that sometimes I think we forget this is a massive trading partner responsible for huge amounts of commerce and huge numbers of jobs on both sides of the border. We want to see how we can deepen that, how we can improve that and maintain that economic dialogue over a long period of time.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be talking about security. I think that in my first conversation with the President, he indicated to me that he very much continues to be concerned about how we can work together to deal with transnational drug cartels. We’ve made great strides in the coordination and cooperation between our two governments over the last several years. But my suspicion is, is that things can be improved.

And some of the issues that he’s talking about really had to do with refinements and improvements in terms of how Mexican authorities work with each other, how they coordinate more effectively, and it has less to do with how they’re dealing with us, per se. So I’m not going to yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I’ve heard directly from them to see what exactly are they trying to accomplish.

But, overall, what I can say is that my impression is, is that the new President is serious about reform. He’s already made some tough decisions. I think he’s going to make more that will improve the economy and security of Mexican citizens, and that will improve the bilateral relationship as well.

And I don’t want to leave out that we’re also going to be talking to, during my visit to Costa Rica, Presidents of Central American countries, many of whom are struggling with both economic issues and security issues, but are important partners for us — because I think that the vision here is that we want to make sure that our hemisphere is more effectively integrated to improve the economy and security of all people. That’s good for the United States. That will enhance our economy. That can improve our energy independence.

There are a whole range of opportunities, and that’s going to be the purpose of this trip. And I’m sure that those of you who will have the chance to travel with me we’ll have a chance to discuss this further.


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