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Obama: ‘time has come’ for action on new immigration laws

President Obama sought yeserday to build on gathering political momentum for sweeping revisions to the nation’s immigration laws, giving cautious endorsement to a new Senate blueprint and offering more details of his own plan.

Speaking at an event in Las Vegas designed to highlight the growing clout of Hispanic voters, Obama urged lawmakers to quickly pass comprehensive legislation that includes tighter border security, a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrants now in the country illegally and a system to expand the pool of legal immigrant workers.

“The time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama told a cheering audience at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, where two-thirds of the students are Hispanic. “We can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate.”

Obama’s appearance comes a day after four Democratic and four Republican senators released their own framework for immigration legislation, which Obama said is “very much in line with the principles I proposed and campaigned on.”

“The good news is that, for the first time in many years, Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together,” Obama said. “At this moment, it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon.”

Even with increasing bipartisan support, passage of an immigration bill is far from a sure bet. While the president is holding off on offering his own version of a legislative proposal, some elements of Obama’s blueprint released yesterday indicate differences that could derail the bill.

One major point of contention is how to proceed with citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. Republicans are pressing to make that process contingent on tightening border security and improving tracking of people in the U.S. on visas. A commission of governors, community members, and attorneys general living on the southwest border would make a recommendation when the security measures are completed.

The White House plan doesn’t link citizenship to security, out of concern that
a longer process could make
it effectively impossible for those immigrants to get full status.

Obama said that if legislation gets mired in Congress he would send his own plan to the Capitol and insist lawmakers vote on it “right away.”

Obama’s plan requires people living in the U.S. illegally to register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks, and pay fees and taxes before becoming eligible for legal status. After eight years, they would be eligible for legal permanent resident status and five years later could apply for citizenship.

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