President Obama pledged Wednesday to put the full power of his office behind an effort to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, telling Telemundo in an interview "the one thing I can guarantee is my effort."
"I can guarantee that I will put everything I've got behind it," Obama told anchor Jose Diaz Balart in the interview, which came a day after Obama traveled to Las Vegas to unveil his plans. "We're putting our shoulder to the wheel... I will do everything I can to make sure that we align public opinion with Congressional votes so that I can actually get a bill on that desk to sign."
Obama called a March estimate for legislation in the Senate a "reasonable timeline.. We've been working on this for a long time. We know what the issues are," Obama said. He said the White House -- which has said it wants Congress to take the lead -- has a "bill drafted" and that the issue "is not so much technical as it is political.
"It's a matter of-- Republicans and Democrats coming together-- and finding a meeting of the minds and then making the case," he said.
Diaz-Balart asked him why he couldn't extend help to all immigrants like he did last summer to younger immigrants: "I'm not a king," Obama replied.
Obama said he wants certainty for citizenship in legislation, adding, "what we don't want is I think a vague promise that somewhere down the line, maybe, sort of kinda you may be able to achieve citizenship."
Asked about why he hasn't talked with Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio who are also working on immigration proposals, Obama suggested "the truth is oftentimes what happens is members of Congress prefer meeting among themselves to build trust, between Democrats and Republicans
there. They want assistance from us but sometimes they want it through back channels."
He said that if Republicans "want a public meeting, private meetings, anything that-- is necessary to move this thing forward, we're happy to do."
"I make no apologies for us enforcing the law as well as the work that we've done to strengthen border security," he said, contending there's been an 80 percent drop in illegal crossings. "What we've seen
is that the people who are being deported, the vast majority of them now are criminals."