Obama pushes Congress on immigration, split emerges

Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:06pm EST
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By Matt Spetalnick

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Just over a week into his second term, President Barack Obama took his fight for immigration reform to the West on Tuesday and pushed Congress to quickly find a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents.

But as Obama praised a bipartisan immigration plan during a speech in Las Vegas, disagreement emerged between the White House and Republicans that underscored the difficulty of resolving an emotive issue that has long defied a legislative fix.

"I'm here today because the time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform," Obama said at a high school. "The time is now. Now is the time."

After years on the back burner, immigration reform has suddenly looked possible as Republicans, chastened by Latino voters who rejected them in the November election, appear more willing to accept a thorough overhaul.

Action on immigration was sidelined by economic issues and healthcare reform during Obama's first term but it is part of an ambitious liberal agenda the Democratic president laid out last week in his second inaugural address. That agenda also includes gun control, gay rights and fighting climate change.

Hispanic voters were crucial in winning Nevada for Obama in November and the crowd at the high school was supportive.

"Si se puede," yelled some, using a Spanish phrase that harked back to Obama's 2008 "Yes we can" campaign slogan. Some in the audience were brought to tears when he talked about the difficulties some immigrants have experienced.

In Washington, however, differences quickly emerged between what Obama would like and the proposals by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators, whose plan is heavy on border security.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives on stage to deliver remarks on immigration reform at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)