President Barack Obama called on Congress to continue working toward comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Monday, saying that he wants to sign the bill into law as soon as possible.
"Everyone pretty much knows what's broken. Everybody knows how to fix it. We've all proposed solutions and we've got a lot of white papers and studies," Obama said.
He added, "We've just got, at this point, to work up the political courage to do what's required to be done. So I expect a bill to be put forward. I expect the debate to begin next month."
Obama said "real reform" means strengthening the border and holding employers accountable as well as providing a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. He also called for modernizing the legal immigration system.
The president spoke at a naturalization ceremony for 28 new U.S. citizens from a number of different countries, including Afghanistan, Mexico, Nigeria and Peru. Several of the new citizens are active duty service members in the U.S. military.
"As long as the promise of America endures, as long as we continue to stand tall as a beacon of hope and opportunity, then the world's hardest workers, the hungriest entrepreneurs, the men and women who are willing to make enormous sacrifices to get a better life -- not just for themselves but for their children and their grandchildren, they're going to keep on coming," Obama said.
"And like the millions who came before -- and like the 28 Americans who are here today -- they will bring with them new hopes and new dreams, new ideas and new optimism about our future," he added. "That will make us stronger. That's how we'll make sure that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us."
Obama's remarks come after several Republicans sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., last week calling for a slowdown on immigration reform, suggesting that the process to craft legislation should take months not weeks.
The letter was signed by Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as well as Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, John Cornyn, R-Tex., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Tex.
The Senators said the letter was sent in response to indications that Leahy wants the committee to take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation reportedly being drafted by the "Gang of Eight" Senators when the Senate returns from recess in April.
The "Gang of Eight" refers to a group of four Republicans and four Democrats that have been working on an immigration reform proposal designed to attract bipartisan support.
Earlier this year, the group outlined a proposal that includes providing a path to citizenship but ties the reforms to further increases in border security.
In the letter, the Senators noted that there were 100 hours of committee hearings and years of debate before the last major immigration reform bill was passed in 1986.
Obama has warned lawmakers that he will introduce his own immigration reform legislation if Congress fails to act, but the letter from the Republican Senators suggests that any bill faces an uphill battle.
by RTT Staff Writer
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