Barack Obama calls for action on immigration system

Wednesday 30 January 2013 11.40
Barack Obama urges Congress to act in a timely fashion
Barack Obama urges Congress to act in a timely fashion

US President Barack Obama has called on the US Congress to make good on plans to overhaul the immigration system.

He said that if Congress is unable to act in a timely fashion, he will propose immigration legislation of his own and demand politicians vote on it.

Immigration reform could give Mr Obama a landmark legislative achievement in his second-term.

However, the White House is mindful that success on such a divisive issue will require a delicate balancing act.

Mr Obama was speaking a day after a group of influential Senate Democrats and Republicans laid out a broad plan of their own that is similar to White House immigration proposals.

"We need Congress to act on a comprehensive approach that finally deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants," Mr Obama said at a high school in Las Vegas.

His challenge is to spur progress toward actual legislation guided by the senators' immigration plan without alienating his fiercest Republican opponents, who might oppose anything with the Democratic president's name on it.

Foreshadowing what could be a critical area of disagreement with Republicans, Mr Obama stopped short of backing the Senate group's requirement that providing a path to citizenship be contingent on first doing more to secure the nation's borders, a concession that was made to appeal to conservatives.

Another point of contention is expected to be whether same-sex couples are granted the same benefits as heterosexual couples under immigration reform, something the White House says Mr Obama will insist upon, but which the Senate group did not deal with.

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