* Obama meets with immigration reform advocates, CEOs
* CEO want chance to reform laws for good of economy
* 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 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 said
they had pressed the Democratic president to ensure that reforms
provide an unambiguous route to citizenship for the estimated 11
million people 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 Rata, an
Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. She stopped
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, outlined in a speech in Las Vegas 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. Republicans want to defer
citizenship until the country's borders are more secure,
especially the frontier with Mexico.
A group of Democratic and Republican 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 said. "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."
The White House said Obama has already addressed most border
security goals sought by Republicans, said spokesman Jay Carney,
who added that the president would wait until senators draft a
bill before judging any proposed trigger.
The immigration reform 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 Marie 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
Obama met separately on immigration reform with chief
executives from 12 companies, including Goldman Sachs Group
Inc's Lloyd Blankfein, Yahoo Inc's Marissa Mayer
and Klaus Kleinfeld of Alcoa Inc.
The executives see immigration reform as good for the
economy, said Arne Sorenson of Marriott International Inc
"It's clear that immigration reform is an opportunity that
really arises out of this last election," he told reporters. "It
would be great to see the political leaders from both sides
seize that opportunity, grab it, and pass something which is
Senators have also proposed an improved guest worker
program, a major issue for the agricultural industry, which
counts on migrant workers to pick crops, and for labor groups,
which have opposed such proposals.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S.
federation of trade unions, told reporters 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.
Details of a new guest worker program must still be worked
out, bu labor unions are eager to help shape a program to
benefit their members, said Frank Sharry, executive director of
America's Voice, an advocacy group immigration reform.
"The good news is that labor is united and wanting
immigration reform. That was not the case a few years ago,"