LAS VEGAS (AP) — President Barack Obama is hailing bipartisan Senate efforts to overhaul the nation's patchwork immigration laws, welcoming "a genuine desire" to tackle an issue that has been stalled for years.
Obama was appearing at a campaign-style rally where he will seek to animate public support for his immigration principles. The president's proposals largely mirror plans released a day earlier by eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans.
"The good news is that, for the first time in many years, Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together," Obama said in excerpts of his talk released in advance of the Nevada gathering. "It looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that's very encouraging," he said.
A central tenet of the proposals from the White House and the Senate group is a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally. Immigration advocates said they expected the president's proposals to be more progressive than those featured in the Senate plan, including a faster pathway to citizenship.
The simultaneous immigration initiatives were spurred by the November presidential election, in which Obama won an overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters. The results also forced new thinking among Republicans who previously had opposed immigration change. Now a host of GOP lawmakers is reconsidering the party's stance on the issue in order to rebuild its reputation among Hispanics, an increasingly powerful political force in America.
Most of the recommendations Obama made today 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.