The White House made no promises Wednesday to push for a comprehensive immigration bill that includes protections for binational same-sex couples.
Speaking to reporters, White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated a statement by President Barack Obama from yesterday that the Senate bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, known as the "gang of eight," is a compromise and does not entirely reflect the bill the president would have written.
"As the president said, this bill is clearly a compromise and no one will get everything they want from it, including the president," Carney said. "That's the nature of compromise."
Although advocates have praised aspects of the 844-page "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act," which was introduced earlier today and will receive its first hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, they have lamented that it does not include protections for same-sex couples.
Under the Defense of Marriage Act, immigrants in relationships with Americans of the same-sex are denied various protections, including eligibility for green cards, because the federal government does not recognize such relationships. According to the Family Equality Council, there are more than 36,000 binational same-sex couples living in the United States today. Nearly half of them are raising children. Without recognition of same-sex relationships in deportation proceedings, many of these families risk being torn apart, as has already happened to others.
Asked by NPR's Ari Shapiro if Obama is willing to let go of provisions for same-sex couples, which the president had originally called for in his outline for comprehensive immigration reform, Carney demurred.
"I'm not going to negotiate out the process that will take some time in the Senate as this bill moves forward, or assess individual items within it," Carney said. "It is certainly the case, as the president said in his statement, that not everything in the bill reflects how he would write it, but it broadly is consistent with his principles."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), is expected to offer an amendment in committee to tack on UAFA, which would recognize immigrants in relationships with Americans of the same-sex and grant them various protections, including eligibility for visas. Such a provision has faced opposition from some Senate Republicans, who have warned it could sink an already fragile bipartisan bill.
"So we'll see where this goes," Carney said.
Read the full transcript here:
NPR: I wanted to ask about the immigration bill. President Obama spoke positively about the compromise offer yesterday, which does not include citizenship for same-sex couples of different nationalities. Is that something the President will push for in a final bill, or is this just the cost of compromise?
CARNEY: Well, the President did, as you know, meet yesterday with Senator Schumer and McCain, who briefed him on the bipartisan immigration reform bill that they have drafted and has now been submitted.
As the President said, this bill is clearly a compromise and no one will get everything they want from it, including the President. That’s the nature of compromise. But the bill is largely consistent with the principles he has laid out repeatedly. It would strengthen security at our borders and hold employers more accountable, and it would provide a pathway to earn citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are already in this country illegally. And that is significant progress, as the President noted in his statement.
This process will continue. We will work with lawmakers of both parties as the bill is considered. But it is very important to note that this is a bipartisan bill that represents compromise and reflects and is consistent with the principles that the President has long supported.
NPR: Does that mean he's willing to let that provision go?
CARNEY: Again, this -- I'm not going to negotiate out the process that will take some time in the Senate as this bill moves forward, or assess individual items within it. It is certainly the case, as the President said in his statement, that not everything in the bill reflects how he would write it, but it broadly is consistent with his principles. And we will see --
NPR: He will sign it?
CARNEY: Have you ever seen a bill of this size go from inception to a President's desk unaltered? So we’ll see where this goes. So I don’t want to characterize any provision within it. I want to broadly make the point that the President made yesterday that it is consistent with his principles and that this is significant and important progress. And the members of the Gang of Eight should be commended for the progress they've made.
But we're not there yet. And this is a big piece of business that requires broad bipartisan support, and much work remains to be done.
[Image: Jay Carney (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube)]