President Barack Obama is set to push for a comprehensive immigration bill as part of an overhaul of the system despite calls from some Republicans for a piecemeal approach, it was reported Saturday.
The New York Times cited White House officials in suggesting the president will lay out concrete plans for reform of the immigration process in the coming weeks, potentially during his State of the Union address on 12 February.
The report added that Democrats intended to resist Republican moves to break down legislation into separate bills. Instead a broad package of proposals – that would include a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the US – would be introduced to Congress.
The New York Times reported that a bipartisan group of senators had already been meeting about a proposed bill, with legislation due to hit Washington as early as March.
Immigration has been high on the president’s agenda since his November re-election. A record number of Hispanics turned out to vote – making up 10% of the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center.
And with 71%, they overwhelmingly favoured Obama over his presidential rival Mitt Romney.
Since winning re-election, Obama has continued to pledge immigration reform, an issue that is commonly perceived to factor highly amongst America’s Hispanic community.
In his weekly address to the nation Saturday, Obama suggested that the immigration system needed to be fixed.
As a precursor to the reform package, the White House last year ordered the end to deportations of young immigrants who were brought to the US as children. The policy shift meant that around 800,000 young adults could apply for legal status to live and work in America.
The Republican party has likewise moved on the issue of immigration. In the aftermath of November’s defeat, leading Republican, House speaker John Boehner called on Obama to “get the job done” on immigration reform. He has urged his party to tow a more positive line on the issue.
Likewise, Florida senator Marco Rubio, a rising Republican star of Cuban-American heritage, has urged his party to embrace reform, although he favours a piecemeal approach.
“I think the Republican party for many years allowed itself to be positioned as the anti-illegal (immigrants) party ≥ what we really need to be is the pro-legal (immigrants) party,” he said at a recent breakfast meeting hosted by Politico.
But that approach may result in some push-back from GOP supporters who are urging a harder line on immigration.
The introduction of a comprehensive package could further open up fissures in the Republican Party following an apparent split over the recent fiscal cliff deal.