Obama reaches out to three key Republicans on immigration reform

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:21pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama talks against automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect next week, while in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama talks against automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect next week, while in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama reached out directly on Tuesday to key Republican senators negotiating a sweeping U.S. immigration overhaul and urged them to help craft a bipartisan reform bill as soon as possible.

Facing criticism for not getting personally involved in the delicate process on Capitol Hill, Obama made phone calls to three U.S. senators - Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham - part of a "Gang of Eight" group of Republicans and Democrats working on an immigration package.

Obama stepped in amid tensions with Republicans over the weekend leak of details of a backup immigration reform plan the White House is drafting in case the congressional effort stalls or breaks down.

The Democratic president told the three Republicans that he supports the Senate immigration initiative and "hopes that they can produce a bill as soon as possible that reflects shared core principles on reform," the White House said in a statement.

But repeating a warning that Obama has already issued in public, the White House also said "he is prepared to submit his own legislation if Congress fails to act."

Rubio, a rising Cuban-American star in his party and considered crucial to winning conservative backing for any reform deal, had dismissed the White House draft, which included an eight-year path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as seriously flawed and "dead on arrival in Congress."

Rubio's office had denied assertions by the White House over the weekend that it had been engaged with them on the immigration issue, but administration officials insisted again on Tuesday that the sides had held a series of staff-level meetings.

Obama's calls on Tuesday, including one to Rubio while he was visiting Jerusalem, may help calm the waters for now.

"Senator Rubio appreciated receiving President Obama's phone call to discuss immigration reform," said Rubio spokesman Alex Conant. "The senator told the president that he feels good about the ongoing negotiations in the Senate, and is hopeful the final product is something that can pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support."

Obama emphasized in last week's State of the Union address the importance of creating a clear path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

Many Republicans stress that there must first be measurable progress in securing the nation's borders, a condition that will be hard for the president to accept if it drags out the legalization process.

The White House, however, is counting on many Republicans feeling the pressure to move swiftly on immigration reform after they were chastened by Latino voters' rejection in the November election.

Obama, who met last week with top Democrats involved in the Senate effort, told the Republicans on Tuesday that "commonsense reform needs to include strengthening border security, creating an earned path to citizenship, holding employers accountable, and streamlining legal immigration," the White House said.

"He thanked the senators for their leadership, and made clear that he and his staff look forward to continuing to work together with their teams to achieve needed reform," the White House said.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (12)
BioStudies wrote:
By reaching out you mean “told them to do what he says, or else.”

Feb 19, 2013 8:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
AdamSmith wrote:
Immigration is destroying the American middle class.

Look at the rest of the world.

Japan was an unpopulated group of islands until its first human inhabitans arrived from China.

Quite striking, of course, is the fact than Japan rose to prominence among human cultures because it was, like England, an island nation, and compared to other countries, had almost zero immigration.

Japan, the land of the gods, grew such a strong culture, admired around the world, because it was not constantly disturbed by immigrations.

That is the exact opposite of, say, India, which has constantly, throughout its history, been disturbed by immigrations. Including its immigrants, India today has a population of 1.17 billion people, compared to Japan’s 128 million.

India has had migration after migration from every direction. It is made up of Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists, Christians, just to start.

India, the land made of immigrants, has literally dozens of languages, and great corruption. Everybody speaking a different language, worshiping a different god, stealing from each other.

Yet Japan, with a population only one-tenth the size of India’s, has a GDP 4 times as big as India.

Japan, the island nation, protected from immigrations, is a cohesive culture, very high economic production, high per-capita incomes and wages, and the lowest crime rate in the world.

So America should ask itself, do we want to remain a strong culture, like Japan, or do we want to allow immigrations from all directions, and end up like India, with poverty, disease, corruption and chaos?

Feb 19, 2013 9:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
CountryPride wrote:
It is a lie that this is called immigration reform. This is just going to be another mass amnesty of which there have been 7 since 1986 all promising to solve the illegal immigration problem and all it does is cause more illegal immigration because they know the next one is around the corner, meanwhile their illegal support base inside the US continues to grow in power as we see how politicians now willingly pander to these former illegal immigrants and their groups hoping for votes. If this passes the American taxpayer is going to get hit hard, not only do we already pay for the illegals that are filing billions in false tax returns every year but the ones who work under the table and don’t pay taxes which are the great majority we end up paying for them and their families access to public services. Just look at why Stockton CA went bankrupt, because there were too many illegals and not enough taxpayers to support them all. The difference is that once the millions are made legal this time they will now have full access to welfare and medicaid and rob US citizens even more. I suggest you look at joining NumbersUSA to fight back against the illegal foreign invasion of this country.

Feb 19, 2013 9:33pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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