WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama understands Republican concerns about the need to link improved border security to changes in immigration law, two key Republicans involved in the effort said Tuesday after a White House meeting with Obama.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said they covered a variety of topics in the unusual meeting with Obama, including a discussion of how to reshape the nation's immigration laws. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is also involved in the immigration discussions, was not invited to the meeting. (See the Buzz, 3B.)
The GOP duo — members of a bipartisan group of eight senators working to write an immigration bill for introduction in March — emerged with strong praise for Obama's leadership and optimism for the effort.
"It was one of the best meetings I've ever had with the president," Graham said. "I think the president's very sincere in wanting a bill and wanted to know what he could do to help."
According to a joint statement of principles issued by the Senate group last month, illegal immigrants would be able to quickly seek temporary legal status after passage of possible legislation. But they would not be able to seek permanent residency until the border is more secure.
Republicans have said the linkage is key to a bipartisan agreement, though it worries immigrant advocates.
McCain and Graham said after Tuesday's meeting that they believe Obama understands GOP concerns about the border.
"He understands that we need border security that we can afford," Graham said. "Senator McCain made a strong point about the border. The president understands the working components of it."