Saturday, December 7, 2013
Julie Pace / The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Seeking swift action on immigration, President Barack Obama on Tuesday will try to rally public support behind his proposals for giving millions of illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship, as well as making improvements to the legal immigration system and border security.
The president will launch his push in a campaign-style event in Las Vegas, a day after a bipartisan group of senators unveiled their own plan for addressing an issue that has languished in Washington for years.
Administration officials said Obama would largely endorse the senators' efforts, though immigration advocates said they expected the president's own proposals to be more progressive than the Senate group's, including a faster pathway to citizenship.
The simultaneous immigration campaigns were spurred by the November presidential election, in which Obama won an overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters. The results caused Republican lawmakers who had previously opposed immigration reform to reconsider in order to rebuild the party's reputation among Hispanics, an increasingly powerful political force.
Most of the recommendations Obama will make Tuesday are not new. He outlined an immigration blueprint in May 2011 but exerted little political capital to get it passed by Congress, to the disappointment of many Hispanics.
Obama "believes that we are at a moment now where there seems to be support coalescing at a bipartisan level behind the very principles that he has long put forward and behind principles that have in the past enjoyed bipartisan support," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. "And that is a very positive thing."
The president was to make his pitch in Nevada, a political battleground he carried in November, in large part because of support from Hispanics in the state.
Nationally, Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, giving him a key advantage over Republican rival Mitt Romney.
Administration officials said the president would bolster his 2011 immigration blueprint with some fresh details. His original plan centered on four key areas: a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., improved border security, an overhaul of the legal immigration system, and an easier process for businesses to verify the legal status of workers.
Administration officials said they were encouraged to see the Senate backing the same broad principles. In part because of the fast action on Capitol Hill, Obama does not currently plan to send lawmakers formal immigration legislation.
However, officials said the White House does have legislation drafted and could fall back on it should the Senate process stall. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.
Gay and lesbian advocates were also expecting Obama's proposals to include recognition of same-sex couples where one partner is American and another is not.
Obama's previous proposals for creating a pathway to citizenship required those already in the U.S. illegally to register with the government and submit to security checks; pay registration fees, a series of fines and back taxes; and learn English. After eight years, individuals would be allowed to become legal permanent residents and could eventually become citizens five years later.
The Senate group's pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. would be contingent upon securing the border and improving tracking of people in the U.S. on visas. Linking citizenship to border security could become a sticking point between the White House and lawmakers.
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