Obama Derides Arizona Immigration Law as ‘Misguided’

Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:24pm

Updated: 4:55 p.m.

President Barack Obama on Friday urged Congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform just as he criticized Arizona state officials for passing a “misguided” law that targets illegal immigrants.

During remarks at a military naturalization ceremony at the White House, the president called attention to a pending Arizona law that would make it a crime to be in the country illegally and require anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant to show identification.

Obama directed the Justice Department to evaluate the legislation for civil rights violations as soon as the Arizona governor signed it into law, which occurred Friday afternoon.

Congress must move forward on comprehensive immigration reform, Obama argued, because failure to act “will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.”

The president praised Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for producing a bipartisan framework for legislation last month and said he welcomes a recent pledge by House and Senate Democratic leaders to take action on the issue this year.

Following through with a promise he made to Schumer and Graham, Obama has been reaching out to Senate Republicans believed to be potential co-sponsors of immigration reform legislation. He called Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), George LeMieux (Fla.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) on Wednesday to discuss the matter. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama has “strong concern” about the Arizona law but hedged on saying whether it increases pressure to pass immigration reform this year.

“We have had the conditions for needing to do this comprehensively for quite some time. That’s what led the Congress to act in 2005 and 2006, and the president … made phone calls this week to try to garner Republican support for moving forward,” Gibbs told reporters Friday.

Gibbs dismissed the idea that Obama would shy away from the polarizing issue because it is politically risky in an election year.

“The president was elected to do the right thing, not just to do what is politically easy,” he said.