President Barack Obama rallied business, labor and other supporters of revising U.S. immigration law behind a bipartisan push to get the legislation passed before Congress takes its August recess.
The U.S. economy historically has flourished with the contributions of immigrants, Obama said today at the White House.
“It’s kept our workforce vibrant and dynamic; It’s kept our businesses on the cutting edge,” he said. “It’s a driving force in our economy that creates jobs and prosperity.”
The Senate planned its first procedural votes today on the measure that leaders plan to pass by July 4 and send to the House. The package, a critical piece of Obama’s second-term agenda, includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Among those in the audience today were U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. The coalition backing a rewrite of the law includes Carlos Gutierrez, former Commerce secretary under President George W. Bush, Steve Case, founder of America Online, and representatives of law enforcement, faith leaders and political leaders of both parties.
“Rare is there an issue these days with this much unity,” David Plouffe, former senior adviser to Obama, said on Bloomberg Television today. “If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?”
Obama said the “moment is now” to get the legislation passed and called the Senate bill “the best chance in years to fix the system.”
Still, some opposition remained.
“This bill has serious flaws,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech as debate got under way While he said he won’t block consideration of the measure, McConnell said it’s going to need “major changes” including those involving border security, government benefits for immigrants and taxes.
The last significant congressional effort to revise U.S. immigration law stalled in 2007. Republicans are trying to reconnect with Hispanics after President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the constituency’s votes in his re-election in November.
House Republican leaders are seeking to accelerate the drafting of a bill in that chamber, where it faces opposition. Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program that he expects to have legislation “by the end of the year.”
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