* Obama meeting with immigration reform advocates, CEOs
* Activists warn against linking overhaul to security
* Details of guest worker program still an issue
By Mark Felsenthal and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Feb 5 Immigration reform advocates
urged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to reject Republican
congressional proposals that would delay a path to citizenship
for undocumented immigrants by making changes contingent on
stepped-up border security.
After meeting Obama at the White House, the activists told
reporters they had pressed the president to ensure reforms
provide an unambiguous route to citizenship for the estimated 11
million people who are in the United States illegally.
"He's not going to accept a vague path to citizenship," said
Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza,
stopping short of saying that Obama had explicitly rejected
linking reforms to increased border security.
The groups said they were "aligned" with Obama's plan on
immigration, which he outlined in a Las Vegas speech last week.
That plan would give illegal immigrants a clear process to
achieve citizenship, including payment of fines, criminal
background checks and going to the "back of the line" behind
Obama has vowed to introduce his own bill if Congress fails
to act in a timely fashion.
But top Republicans want to defer citizenship until the
country's borders are more secure, especially the frontier with
Mexico. A bipartisan group of senators is drafting a bill that
could include such a trigger.
"We expect there to be language around the trigger, but it
can't be a false trigger," Murguia told reporters.
"It can't be a trigger that keeps moving the goal posts and
is indefinable. So it has to be meaningful, real and tangible
for us to accept it," she said.
The White House says it believes Obama has already addressed
most border security goals sought by Republicans, spokesman Jay
Carney told reporters.
But Carney said Obama would wait until senators draft a bill
before judging any proposed trigger.
The groups vowed they would make their opinions heard in
Congress, and noted that the Latino electorate overwhelmingly
backed Obama in the Nov. 6 presidential election and are
counting on quick action on the issue.
"Our community feels momentum and our collective power,"
said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National
Immigration Law Center.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives held its
first hearing on the issue on Tuesday and questioned the idea of
providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
GUEST WORKERS AN ISSUE
Senators have also proposed an improved guest worker
program, a top issue for the agricultural industry, which counts
on immigrant workers to pick crops, and for labor groups, which
have opposed such proposals.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's
largest federation of unions, told reporters that the group
discussed a "data-driven system" for guest workers.
"We can fix what's wrong right now and prevent what's wrong
from driving down the wages of everybody else," Trumka said.
While details of a new guest worker program still need to be
worked out, labor unions are eager to help shape a program to
benefit their members, said Frank Sharry, executive director of
America's Voice, a group advocating for immigration reform.
"The good news is that labor is united and wanting
immigration reform. That was not the case a few years ago,"
Sharry told reporters.
Later on Tuesday, Obama is also slated to meet with chief
executives from 12 companies on immigration reform and other
issues, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc's Lloyd
Blankfein, Yahoo Inc's Marissa Mayer as well as Arne
Sorenson of Marriott International Inc, Jeff Smisek of
United Continental Holdings Inc, and Klaus Kleinfeld of