WASHINGTON (AP):The White House and a bipartisan group of senators will launch separate efforts next week to jump-start negotiations to overhaul the immigration system, an issue that has languished in Washington for years.
President Barack Obama will start his second-term immigration push during a trip to Las Vegas on Tuesday. The Senate working group is aiming to outline its proposals at about the same time, according to a Senate aide.
There is emerging consensus on several key components, notably the need for a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States. The White House and Senate Democrats favour addressing immigration through a broad package of legislation, while some Republicans lawmakers prefer to tackle the issue through several separate bills.
The proposals will mark the start of what's sure to be a contentious and emotional campaign in the wake of 2012 election results that saw Latino voters turn out in large numbers to re-elect Obama - a signal to some Republican leaders that the party needed to change its posture on immigration.
DRAFTING IMMIGRATION BILL
The aim of the Senate group is to draft an immigration bill by March and pass legislation in the Senate by August, said the aide who requested anonymity in order to discuss private deliberations. The Republican-controlled House would also need to pass the legislation before it went to the White House for the president's signature.
For Obama, a successful push on immigration reform would be a promise kept to the Latino community after he disappointed many by failing to act on the issue in his first term, and it could be central to his legacy.
Obama has pledged to tackle immigration reform during his second term.
"Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country," the president said in his second inaugural speech.