Same-sex provision should not derail U.S. immigration move: Obama

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica Fri May 3, 2013 10:57pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla after their meeting at Casa Amarilla in San Jose May 3, 2013. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla after their meeting at Casa Amarilla in San Jose May 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate

Related Topics

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - President Barack Obama signaled on Friday that a proposal to add a same-sex partnership measure to an immigration overhaul should not be allowed to derail the entire legislative effort.

Obama has used the prospect of new immigration laws as a major selling point for stronger U.S. relations with Latin America on a three-day tour of Mexico and Costa Rica that ends on Saturday.

But a proposal by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has cast uncertainty into the delicate process of reaching a compromise on immigration.

Leahy plans to propose next week an amendment to the legislation that would let gay Americans sponsor their foreign-born partners for green cards, which confer permanent residency.

If it were to be included in the final bill, opposition from social conservatives could doom to failure the biggest effort in decades to improve the U.S. immigration system.

Obama said he would support Leahy's move, but that the broader effort to reform U.S. immigration must be kept in mind.

"I can tell you I think that this provision is the right thing to do. I can also tell you I'm not going to get everything I want in this bill. Republicans are not going to get everything that they want in this bill," he said.

Obama is under pressure to gain a legislative victory on immigration after a slow start to his second term, marked by a failure to achieve passage of new gun regulations and an ongoing budget standoff with lawmakers.

Washington's battles were not far from his mind as Obama visited Costa Rica, the first U.S. president to do so since Bill Clinton came in 1997. He met with a host of Central American leaders in San Jose on Friday evening.

Costa Rica declared a national holiday in honor of Obama and thousands of people, many of them school children in uniforms, lined the streets of San Jose for a glimpse of the president's motorcade.

At Casa Amarilla, headquarters of the Costa Rica foreign affairs ministry, school children wearing white shirts with blue silk shawls stood in a circle around Obama and sang to him.

At their joint news conference, Obama and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla emphasized the growing importance of economic ties as a way to buoy the region, after years in which most U.S. relationships with Central America centered around fighting drug cartels.

Security concerns remain paramount, they said, but must take their place alongside trade.

"What we want to do is push ahead with initiatives that help make trade easier," Chinchilla said.

"We have to make sure everybody feels opportunity," said Obama.

(With reporting by Isabella Cota; Editing by Simon Gardner and Xavier Briand)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (19)
cfulbright wrote:
Why does he alway have to take a hard-fought deal and then ask for another 10%? If the immigration deal dies, it’s because of Obama renegotiating a done deal.

May 03, 2013 11:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Burns0011 wrote:
That’s not how it works. What happens is, Leahy will propose it as an amendment, the amendment will get voted down, and the bill will be voted on separately.

May 03, 2013 11:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SanPa wrote:
Leahy has a legitimate amendment to the legislation. It must stand with the pending worker import bill.

May 03, 2013 12:07am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.