WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will employ Las Vegas as the platform to begin a new push for immigration overhaul that would include a chance at citizenship for millions of undocumented residents, the White House said Friday.
Obama plans to travel to Southern Nevada on Tuesday to promote an immigration overhaul, a cause that fell by the wayside during his first term. The president has reaffirmed the issue as a priority, and it has picked up bipartisan interest in Congress as well.
Obama will travel to Las Vegas for a midday event and back to Washington on the same day, according to the White House.
His speech will be at Del Sol High School.
After Obama huddled for a strategy session Friday morning with a half dozen Hispanic lawmakers, the White House said the purpose of the trip was “to redouble the administration’s efforts to work with Congress to fix the broken immigration system this year.”
Obama told lawmakers the immigration reform was “a top legislative priority,” the White House said. The president renewed a promise to Hispanics to move immigration to the front burner this year, a goal echoed by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader.
The choice of Las Vegas to spotlight immigration was hardly unusual, as Hispanics in Nevada have grown to more than a quarter of the state’s population, and Latino voters here backed Obama for re-election in November by a 70 percent to 25 percent margin over Mitt Romney.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus last fall unveiled a nine-point set of principles that it said must be a part of any immigration reform bill.
Obama and caucus leaders confirmed Friday they remain on the same page as the president takes his program on the road.
The shared vision includes “a path to earned citizenship,” and Obama “made it clear there is no excuse for stalling or delay,” the White House said.
“The president is the quarterback, and he will direct the team, call the play, and be pivotal if we succeed,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., one of a half dozen lawmakers who met with Obama.
“I am very optimistic based on conversations with Republicans in the House and Senate that we will do more than just talk about the immigration issue this year,” Gutierrez said.
Obama also plans to dust off a 2011 immigration reform blueprint that included stronger border protections, penalties against companies that employ illegal immigrants and incentives for skilled immigrants to remain in the United States.
A major part of the effort is allowing a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, of which there are roughly
11 million in the United States. They include up to 1.4 million who were brought to the United States as children – the so-called Dreamers named after the Dream Act legislation that sought to help them but has failed to move on Capitol Hill.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday that Obama in Las Vegas will talk about his 2011 blueprint.
“The president’s commitment to comprehensive immigration reform has been clear for a very long time, and it has been detailed for a very long time,” he said.
With Obama’s visit, activists in Reno and Las Vegas on Monday will announce their role in a national effort to spotlight families that have been separated by a “broken immigration process.”
The Keeping Families Together campaign would provide grass-roots backing and apply pressure to Congress to pass friendly immigration legislation.
Astrid Silva, an immigration activist in Las Vegas, said she was happy that Obama and Reid were moving on immigration reform as promised.
“We need something soon. Families are being separated every day,” said Silva, a so-called Dreamer who has applied for a work permit the Obama administration offered last year to young immigrants. She has not yet received it.
Immigration reform “is an economic imperative for our country,” said Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, who campaigned for Obama in the fall. “I agree with the (Congresssional Hispanic Caucus) and I stand ready to help them and the president.”
At the same time Obama is traveling outside Washington, a group of lawmakers working on immigration was aiming to outline a separate proposal next week, according to The Associated Press.
Details of the Senate proposals remained unclear, but the principles are expected to address a process toward legalizing the status of unauthorized immigrants already in the country, border security, verification measures for employers hiring workers, and ways for more temporary workers to be admitted into the country.
Review-Journal reporter Laura Myers contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.ON THE INTERNET
Obama’s 2011 blueprint for immigration reform