Thursday, March 18, 2010

Obama backs senators' immigration overhaul outline

President Barack Obama, facing criticism from advocates of immigration reform, pledged Thursday "to do everything in my power" to get immigration legislation moving in Congress this year.

Obama said work on an immigration bill should move forward based on an outline released Thursday by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"A critical next step will be to translate their framework into a legislative proposal, and for Congress to act at the earliest possible opportunity," Obama said.

The outline calls for illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law, pay a fine and back taxes, and perform community service if they want to get on a pathway to legal status. They would also be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English.

"I congratulate Sens. Schumer and Graham for their leadership, and pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year on this important issue so we can continue to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform," Obama said.

Obama's statement and the senators' outline were timed for release before a march and rally Sunday that is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to Washington to press the administration and Congress for immigration reform.

Immigrants and their supporters have grown frustrated as the Obama administration has continued to detain and deport immigrants while immigration reform remains dormant. Obama had promised to make it a top priority in his first year in office.

Hoping to temper the percolating discontent, Obama held two separate meetings last week with grass-roots immigration leaders as well as Schumer and Graham. The president assured the leaders at the meeting that he remains committed to reform.

Obama met Thursday at the White House with Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, the sponsors of a House immigration bill. Gutierrez said later he agreed to vote for Obama's signature domestic bill, health care reform, only if an immigration bill advanced quickly and with a presidential imprimatur. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also endorsed the health care bill.


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