President Obama again has called on Congress to act on sweeping immigration
reform, saying he expects legislation to be introduced in April and debate on it
The bipartisan Gang of Eight senators -- four Republicans and four Democrats -- has been working on a what could be the blueprint for broad reform that includes, among other things, a path for the more than 11 million undocumented people now in the United States to reach legal status, as well as calls for improving border security.
Obama used the swearing-in ceremony of 28 new U.S. citizens at the White House Monday to urge Congress to "finish the job" of overhauling immigration laws.
"Immigration makes us stronger," Obama said. "We've known for years that our immigration system is broken. ... After avoiding the problem for years, the time has come to fix it once and for all."
Immigration reform has been a flashpoint issue raising hackles for both parties in Congress and several administrations. And this congressional session is no different.
The Senate's bipartisan deal on immigration could stall because of a dispute over a new guest-worker program, exposing major differences between interest groups crucial to the overhaul's success, The Washington Post reported.
At issue? Rules governing the "future flow" of migrants who come to the United States for low-paying jobs. Citing business interests, Republicans want to give temporary work visas to as many as 400,000 mostly minimum-wage foreign workers a year. But unions -- and Democrats -- say they're concerned about the impact on U.S. workers and they want fewer foreign workers and higher pay under the program.
The senators' efforts also would eliminate some categories of visas for extended family members, people familiar with negotiations told the Post.
Still, now seems the most likely time to get something done on immigration reform -- and the reasons go beyond the prominence of the Latino vote in the 2012 presidential election and how the vote broke overwhelmingly Democratic.
"Something else changed," said Katherine Fennelly, an immigration specialist at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. "It's the strength and strengthening of some of the advocates and coalitions that are speaking more with one voice than they have in past."
Even with labor-based disagreements about the guest worker program, "there's still conversation and these groups are speaking much more with one voice than the past," Fennelly said.
This increased camaraderie has been noticed by the Senate, she said. And the House is watching to see how much bipartisanship the Senate's blueprint actually garners when it becomes legislation.
Also, there are the 2014 mid-term elections to consider.
Congress has to get "some movement, some kind of resolution, before it get too close to election," she said, noting that she wouldn't have believed such a statement was possible as recently as October, when she and others analyzed votes on immigration going back to 1993 and found that most were procedural issues or one party blocked proposals made by the other party.
"We need comprehensive immigration reform, not piecemeal legislation," Fennelly said. "People disagree about what the nature of the change should be but almost
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