White House officials are pushing back hard on Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl’s assertion at a recent town hall meeting that President Barack Obama told the senator during a private Oval Office meeting that he would not secure the border with Mexico until he got a comprehensive bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
A US Border Patrol officer keeps watch over the border fence that divides the US from Mexico in the town of Nogales, Arizona.(Mark Ralston.AFP/Getty Images)
When the video surfaced, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said on the White House’s in-house blog, “The President didn’t say that and Senator Kyl knows it.” Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton repeated that language at the daily White House press briefing.
The issue goes back to the successive efforts in 2006 and 2007 to pass a comprehensive overhaul that tightened border controls and immigration law enforcement, created a legal guest-worker program, and offered a pathway to citizenship for as many as 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country. Democrats – and some Republicans in the past, including Kyl – have opposed a separate bill on border security, arguing that those provisions are vital to the bipartisan coalition that would be needed for the more controversial, comprehensive approach.
Obama has been of that mindset, and although White House officials say the Obama administration has poured resources into border security, Pfeiffer emphasized, “Truly securing the border will require a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system.”