WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans travel to Nevada next week for the public launch of his effort to pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure this year.
Obama kicked off the effort to pass immigration reform Friday by meeting with Latino members of Congress. During the meeting, the president called immigration his top legislative priority, according to lawmakers present for the session.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in the Senate rushed to finish a statement of principles on immigration after hearing that the White House was going to make an announcement about immigration next week. So far, members of a six-person bipartisan working group have committed to putting their names on a joint statement on what should be in an immigration overhaul bill, according to a Senate aide.
The group includes Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida. Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Michael F. Bennet of Colorado have participated in some of the meetings.
Obama outlined the main priorities he seeks in an immigration bill in a speech almost two years ago. But at that point, the effort seemed doomed in Congress. The November election suddenly changed the dynamics as Republicans realized how badly the loss of Latino voters had hurt them, both in the presidential race and in several Senate contests. Many Republicans have now decided the party needs to get the divisive debate over immigration behind them, although a strong segment, particularly in the House, continues to oppose anything that appears to be “amnesty” for those who entered the country illegally.
For Obama, by contrast, creating a pathway for illegal immigrants to eventually obtain citizenship remains a central goal of any reform effort. He is expected to stress that in Tuesday’s speech in Las Vegas.
A comprehensive reform is the “right thing to do for our economy,” Obama spokesman Jay Carney said Friday in announcing the travel plans. Obama frequently argues the “economic imperative” of a policy that is fair to the immigrants who buoy the country as job creators and taxpayers.
Obama hasn’t decided yet whether the White House will draft an administration bill or support measures drafted by members of Congress. Speaking to reporters, Carney said the president welcomes the fact that several proposals appear to mirror his priorities.
Some of those plans “reflect the president’s blueprint,” Carney said, adding that the White House is “encouraged by those developments.”