Both President Obama and Congressional members on both sides of the aisle say they want to fix the country's immigration system, which Obama called "out of date and badly broken."
Obama put immigration reform on the front burner of his second term, releasing his three-pronged plan to tighten border security, help 11 million undocumented immigrants earn citizenship and streamline the process for legal immigrants.
Eight senators also introduced their framework for immigration reform that would allow illegal immigrants earn their citizenship but ties that to improved border security.
The president indicated he'd let Congress take the lead -- but if it gets bogged down on Capitol Hill, he said he wouldn't hesitate to send his own bill and insist that Congress "act on it right away."
"[We] have an immigration system that's out of date and badly broken," he said, "a system that's holding us back instead of helping us grow our economy and strengthen our middle class."
Why the bipartisan efforts -- which have their detractors -- to tackle immigration reform? A cynical answer would be to look at the changing demographics of voters and their candidates of choice.
Or the president and Congress are looking at their respective agendas and found this was one issue that could be passed, albeit with difficulty.
After being shot down twice in recent years, immigration reform's time is apparently now and. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said recently, maybe the third time would, indeed, be the charm. Graham was one of the gang of eight.
Before outlining his immigration plan last week at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Obama said a "broad consensus is emerging and ... a broad call for action can be heard from all across America" for "common sense immigration reform."
"The good news is that -- for the first time in many years -- Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together," Obama said. "Members of both parties, in both chambers, are actively working on a solution ... At this moment, it looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that's very encouraging."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he welcomed the senators' blueprint, even though it includes a path to citizenship for many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants, something conservatives generally oppose.
Boehner said a bipartisan group in the House "basically [has] an agreement" on immigration reform, The Hill reported. That group, he said, included both "hard heads" in his own party and Democrats who have long pushed for comprehensive reform.
Obama's proposal, as previewed on the White House website, differs in at least one key point from the senators' framework -- the requirement the U.S. border with Mexico be deemed secure before letting anyone illegally in the United States get citizenship.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called the gang of eight's proposal a "major breakthrough."
"The key to our compromise is to recognize that Americans overwhelming oppose illegal immigration, and support legal immigration," Schumer said. "To this end, our framework contains four basic pillars. First we create a tough, but fair path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders. Second, we reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families."
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