President Obama to forge ahead with immigration system overhaul early this year

Monday 14 January 2013 11.45
US president is expected to lay out plans during his annual State of the Union address on 12 February
US president is expected to lay out plans during his annual State of the Union address on 12 February

US President Barack Obama is forging ahead on a wide-ranging plan to overhaul the US immigration system early this year.

Measures including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country featured in a report in the New York Times today.

President Obama wants to advance the plan even as he faces tough battles with Congress over fiscal issues and gun-control laws.

He may lay out his ideas during his annual State of the Union address on 12 February.

The president had made immigration reform a key promise for his second term.

After he won the election in November, he said that he expected a bill would be introduced in Congress shortly after his January inauguration.

The New York Times claims that the immigration plan would require immigrants seeking to obtain legal status to pay fines and back-taxes, and would make it possible to pursue citizenship.

The plan would require businesses to verify that new employees are in the country legally.

The proposals could create a guest-worker programme for low-wage immigrants, the report said.

It may also add visas to relieve backlogs and allow high-skilled immigrants to stay in the country.

Some analysts had expected that Mr Obama's immigration reform plans could be delayed by fractious deficit talks with Congress, which face a series of critical deadlines in February and March.

Mr Obama will need cooperation from Republicans, but they have acknowledged they need to address issues important to Latinos.

Latinos are viewed as an influential voting bloc that voted heavily for Mr Obama and his Democrats in the November election.

Republican House speaker John Boehner has said he wants to see immigration reforms.

The House of Representatives passed a bill in November that would create a permanent visa program for foreigners with advanced science and technical degrees.

The New York Times said a bipartisan group of senators led by Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, would like to introduce comprehensive legislation as early as March, and hold a vote by August.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, often mentioned as a future Republican candidate for president, is also working on the issue, but has proposed tackling the issues in stages rather than in one comprehensive law.

His plan would allow illegal immigrants to gain temporary status and eventually apply for permanent residency, Mr Rubio told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Saturday.