The Post's Chris Cillizza, Ed O'Keefe, and Katie Zezima discuss the state of immigration reform and what unfolded in 2014. (Pamela Kirkland/The Washington Post)

“Passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child.”

Obama said that Congress cannot afford to be “refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix.” If such a bill comes to his desk, “it will earn my veto,” he said.

That’s a subtle reference to a brewing fight between the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Funding for the sprawling department expires Feb. 27, and many conservative Republicans are eager to use the bill to end all of the immigration policy changes enacted by Obama over the course of his presidency.

During his speech, Obama asked them not to do so.

“Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants,” he said.

Studying our presidents’ choice of words over time, provides glimpses of change in American politics.

That’s a reference to language in the House-passed DHS spending bill that would end a 2012 program granting temporary legal protection to hundreds of thousands of children of illegal immigrants. The bill also would block steps Obama took in November by executive action to grant similar protections to many of the parents of those children.

The House-passed bill isn’t expected to survive in the Senate, which is more closely divided. By not diving into the tricky specifics of the issue Tuesday night, Obama left it up to lawmakers to negotiate a new spending plan.