Obama backs sweeping bill on immigration reforms

Washington, April 17 (IANS) President Barack Obama has come out in support of a compromise immigration reform legislation unveiled by a bipartisan group of senators offering a 13-year path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, including 260,000 Indians.

The bill does not include everything he wanted, but it is largely consistent with his principles for comprehensive reform said Obama in a statement after key senators from the so-called Gang of Eight made up of four Republicans and four Democrats.

The proposed legislation would create such a path of citizenship only after steps are taken to secure the border with Mexico, from where as many as 60 percent of the illegal immigrants have come.

After leaving the Oval Office, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator John McCain were optimistic about the bill’s progress.

Schumer told reporters the compromise bill will move ahead, despite not being as wide-ranging as Obama had hoped.

“And so, we are feeling very good about this. Things are moving in a very, very good way. And the president’s support of our proposal, even though he would not fully agree with it, is sort of just the right place to be,” Schumer said.

After being introduced by Schumer, the immigration bill is to undergo hearings next week. It would likely reach the Senate floor in late May or early June. But it’s expected to face tough opposition in the Republican controlled House.

The bill offers a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants through a 13-year process that requires workers to pay a fine and back taxes, as well as pass a background check.

All of that, however, remains contingent on three “triggers,” described by Republican senator Marco Rubio, one of the “Gang of Eight,” Sunday.

They include forming an “e-verify” system for employers to check the legal status of workers; tracking immigrants entering and leaving the country, and bolstering border security, which Rubio specified would “include fencing.”

The trigger system is the main difference between the Senate proposal and that of the president.

“The president, for instance, didn’t believe in a trigger. We did. But we created a trigger that’s achievable and specific, so it can’t be used as an excuse not to provide a path to citizenship,” Schumer said Tuesday.

Obama acknowledged the difference in a statement after his meeting with the two senators-but praised the bill, nonetheless.

“This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me. But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform,” he said, urging the Senate to act “quickly.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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