* Obama refers to America's "broken immigration system"
* Democrats may push immigration reform effort in Congress
* Arizona governor enacts tough immigration law
(Updates with Arizona measure signed into law)
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON, April 23 President Barack Obama on
Friday warned that without federal immigration reform the door
would be open to "misguided efforts" such as a new Arizona law
that has raised questions of civil rights.
Obama pressed for immigration reform at a White House Rose
Garden ceremony in which 24 members of the U.S. military
originally from China, Mexico, Ethiopia and other countries
became American citizens.
"Today we celebrate the very essence of the country that we
all love -- an America where so many of our forbearers came
from someplace else," said Obama, whose father was Kenyan.
"And so on a day like this, we are also reminded of how we
must remain both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws,"
he said. "This includes fixing America's broken immigration
Just hours after Obama singled out the Arizona measure as
threatening "to undermine basic notions of fairness that we
cherish as Americans," the state's Republican Governor Jan
Brewer signed into effect the toughest immigration law in the
Police in the border state with Mexico will now be required
to determine if people are in the country illegally if there is
"reasonable suspicion," which critics charge will open the door
to racial profiling.
Democratic leaders in Congress are weighing whether to try
this year to push through immigration reform, a contentious
issue in the United States where about 10.8 million illegal
immigrants live and work in the shadows.
Obama's Democratic Party fears a political backlash from
Hispanics in the November congressional elections because the
issue has made little headway since Obama took office. But many
conservatives oppose easing the pathway to citizenship for
illegal immigrants and complain they drain resources and take
jobs from U.S. citizens.
"Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will
only open the door to irresponsibility by others," Obama said.
The Arizona law requires state and local police to arrest
people who are unable to provide documents proving they are in
the country legally. It is expected to spark a legal
"If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will
continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the
country," Obama said.
Before Arizona's governor signed the measure, White House
spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama had asked that the Justice
Department look into any civil rights implications if it became
Hispanics were key to Obama winning Nevada in the 2008
presidential election and may determine if Senate Democratic
leader Harry Reid wins another six-year term representing that
state in November.
Congressional leaders have discussed taking up immigration
reform this year, but after the hard-fought healthcare reform
battle it may be difficult to get another highly controversial
bill through Congress before the elections.
(Additional reporting by David Schwartz, editing by Vicki