U.S. President Barack Obama is to call Tuesday for speedy action by Congress to address the immigration status of 11 million undocumented residents in the United States, as lawmakers seek a solution to the long-time hot button issue.
"We need Congress to act on a comprehensive approach that finally deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in this country right now," Obama is to say in a speech in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Consensus on the issue has eluded Washington for years, with little movement since a failed proposal under former president George W Bush. November's elections brought immigration into sharp focus for the conservative Republican Party, whose failure to unseat President Barack Obama was attributed in large part to the growing bloc of Latino voters.
"The good news is that - for the first time in many years - Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together," said excerpts from Obama's speech released by the White House. "Members of both parties, in both chambers, are actively working on a solution."
Obama praised a group of senators from both parties who on Monday announced a political "breakthrough" proposal to overhaul the immigration system that would offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship tied to tougher border control measures.
The president noted a "a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that's very encouraging."
The proposal by prominent senators, including Republicans John McCain and Marco Rubio and Democrats Robert Menendez and Dick Durbin, would create a roadmap to citizenship, but would tie its implementation to tougher border controls to curb future illegal immigration.
The plan would reform the legal immigration system to make it more responsive to the US economy, create an effective system for employers to verify the legal status of workers and set up a process for admitting future workers.
In unveiling their plan, the senators expressed optimism that the time was right for legitimate reform to make it through Congress, where Democrats control the Senate and Republicans hold the lower House of Representatives.
The lawmakers said they hoped to introduce legislation by March with the aim of passing a measure by late spring or summer.
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