Obama OK with chopped-up immigration if all bases are covered

President Barack Obama told a group of business executives Tuesday he’s all right with the House chopping immigration reform into pieces, as long as they don’t just do the easy stuff.

Obama said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Seib that he remains optimistic about immigration reform.

“If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done,” Obama said. Obama has previously said he was okay with the House’s taking the approach it chooses, but also has said he wanted immigration reform done this year.

Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said taking the immigration issue a step at a time is the only way to ensure immigration reform works and “we’re pleased the president is starting to recognize that.”

The interview was done by the Wall Street Journal for its CEO Council meeting and was livestreamed. Before asking about immigration reform, Seib told Obama that a working group of CEOs was asked to address the question of how to stay competitive?

“Their first priority, first priority, was this: immigration reform … Immigration reform could provide an instant jolt to the U.S. economy that we need,” Seib said, reading the words of the working group.

Obama said the CEO’s were right, immigration reform “is a boost to our economy.

The Senate’s, bipartisan comprehensive bill addresses border security, enforcement of existing laws, problems in the legal immigration system, the need for high-skilled immigrants and the future of 11 people not legally in the country, Obama said.

The House has been working on separate bills addressing the different aspects of immigration.

“I don’t care what it looks like as long as it’s actually delivering on those core values we talked about,” Obama said of the House bill.

Obama said lawmakers shouldn’t just carve out a part of immigration, such addressing the need for a steady agricultural workforce, which he said is “important but easier,” and “leave behind some of the tougher stuff.”

“We’re not going to have a situation in which 11 million people are still living in the shadows and potentially getting deported,” he said.

He said he doesn’t think the divide is that wide between the two parties.

“What we just have to do is find a pathway where Republicans in the House, in particular, feel comfortable enough about the process that they can go ahead and meet us,” he said.

The comments drew praise from Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an avid immigration reform advocate. He said the House approach is like a multiple course dinner. “If we get several dishes together and they make up, as a group, serious immigration reform, then we can work with Republicans, provided none of the individual dishes make us so sick to our stomachs that we must leave the table,” said Gutierrez, D-Ill.

Earlier Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif, had said Democrats would be willing to go to a conference committee with Republicans if they passed a single issue bill that was acceptable. She said a bill that only provides legal status and not a chance for citizenship to those in the country illegally would not be acceptable.

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