Backers of President Obama's immigration plan said Tuesday that they need Congress to move quickly so as not to lose political momentum gained during last year's elections.
"We feel very strongly there is a sense of urgency," said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of la Raza.
Murguia and leaders of other labor and civil rights organizations met with Obama to discuss the status of an immigration overhaul that has become one of the president's top legislative priorities.
The president also met with business leaders, some of whom later endorsed what Obama calls "comprehensive immigration reform."
Joe Echevarria, the CEO of Deloitte, said revamping the system -- including streamlined rules for foreign high-skilled workers -- would help boost the overall economy.
"It's about people becoming employed and productive," he said.
The White House sessions took place as the House Judiciary Committee conducted hearings on immigration, during which committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., referred to a path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants as "extreme" in a question to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
An earned path to citizenship for those already here is a central part of both Obama's plan and the bipartisan blueprint announced by a group of eight senators last week.
Some congressional Republicans oppose a pathway to citizenship, saying it amounts to amnesty for lawbreakers. The GOP controls the House of Representatives.
"Are there options that we should consider between the extremes of mass deportation and a pathway to citizenship for those not lawfully present in the United States?" Goodlatte asked Castro.
Castro, who supports the plan offered by Obama and the senators, objected to the characterization.
"I don't see that as an extreme option," he said. "The extreme would be open borders."
The sessions also came a week before the State of the Union Address, in which Obama is expected to press Congress to pass a major immigration bill this year.
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