President Obama will make no ultimatums in his immigration speech on Tuesday other than to insist that any legislation must be comprehensive, according to administration officials.
Obama also wants immigration legislation to establish a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants, a proposal that makes many Republicans uncomfortable. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Monday that he doesn't want a "special benefits" for illegal immigrants. Administration officials say Obama will not define how the citizenship has to occur in his speech Tuesday, but he will insist that citizenship is an eventual possibility for eligible undocumented immigrants.
The speech will mark the beginning of Obama's public campaign to change country's immigration system. A bipartisan group of senators made a similar proposal to the Congress on Monday. Administration officials are excited that they now have the best chance in a decade, or longer, to make sense of the country's immigration system — to legalize 11 million illegal immigrants, to establish an economy-based system for future immigrants, and to smooth employers' verification process.
Despite optimism on all sides, any small disagreement over provisions could stunt the legislative momentum. Immigration law is more complex than the tax code, and any tweak in one area messes up all the rest of them. The people directly affected by the outdated law are unlikely to be receptive to a legislation handled in a piecemeal fashion.