Time is ripe for immigration overhaul: Obama
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President Barack Obama declared that "now is the time'' to fix the broken US immigration system, diving into the politically explosive issue with broad proposals for putting millions of illegal immigrants on a clear path to citizenship while cracking down on businesses that employ people illegally and tightening security at the borders.
Obama sought to win public support for changes that would give an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants a chance to become citizens speaking at a campaign-style rally in Las Vegas on Tuesday. The President hailed a bipartisan Senate group working on a similar track but left unresolved key details that could derail the complex and emotional effort.
"The question now is simple. Do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government to finally put this issue behind us? I believe that we do,'' Obama said.
"Yes, they broke the rules,'' Obama said of those who illegally entered the US. "But these 11 million men and women are now here. ... An overwhelming number of these individuals are not looking for any trouble.''
Immigration has quickly and surprisingly emerged as a rare issue with at least some kind of bipartisan support in a deeply divided Congress.
The dueling immigration campaigns have emerged as a consequence of the November presidential election, which gave Obama more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in a defeat of Republican rival Mitt Romney, who famously urged illegal immigrants to "self-deport.'' Republican lawmakers who had previously opposed immigration reform have been forced to reconsider it and rebuild the party's reputation among Hispanics.
Immigration advocates said they expected the President's proposals to be more progressive than those featured in a bipartisan Senate plan announced Monday.