WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) laid down a line Thursday on immigration reform: the president must prove he will enforce immigration law or the House won't pass anything.
"There's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes," Boehner said at a press conference.
Republicans have frequently said one of the difficulties of immigration reform is that they deeply distrust Obama. But many who support reform say rather than avoid action entirely, that mistrust is a reason to build requirements into the law that mandate measured improvement of border security and law enforcement. Even the House GOP principles released last week took that stance, calling for bills that would first require specific metrics on border security and enforcement to be hit before they gave legal status to undocumented immigrants, so this president and future ones couldn't ignore the law.
One of the main issues for the president in attempting to answer the GOP's question of his trustworthiness is that it's unclear what specific proposals the president could take to rebuild that trust. Deportations already hit record levels in 2012, and the administration has argued it has made major strides on border security. Boehner didn't elaborate on what the president should do, just that he should do something -- a tough goal to meet, since it's not defined.
Boehner hedged when asked whether it was still his goal to move on immigration bills this year.
"We're going to continue to discuss this issue with our members," he said. "But I think the president is going to have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it is written."
A reporter pointed out that talking with members is different from actually going forward with legislation. "Yes, it is," Boehner replied, before restating that the president must prove he can be trusted. When a reporter asked about Obama's comments that he was willing to work with the House on piecemeal bills, Boehner skirted the question.
The speaker noted he has said since the 2012 election that immigration reform "needs to be dealt with," but that he had not guaranteed it could happen in 2014. He didn't fully rule out allowing bills to come for a vote during the year, but closed his remarks by restating his concern about trust.
"I have made clear for 15 months the need for the Congress and the administration to work together on the issue of immigration reform," he said. "It needs to get done. I'm going to continue to talk to my members about how to move forward, but the president is going to have to do his part as well."