President Barack Obama rolls into Las Vegas on Tuesday, ready to double down on immigration reform. After failing to press the issue during his first four years in office, he has made it a top legislative priority of his second term. While the president will highlight immigration proposals in a speech at 2:55 p.m. ET, senior administration officials say, he will not introduce new legislation, at least not now.
Obama came under criticism from Latino activists for failing to deliver on a 2008 campaign promise to make immigration reform a priority of his first term. Last year, as Obama’s re-election campaign heated up, his administration announced a halt to deportations of some young undocumented immigrants in a move that delighted the Latino community.
Exit polls in November indicated that Latino voters gave overwhelming support to Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, who had advocated a policy that amounted to forcing undocumented immigrants to deport themselves.
While in Nevada, Obama will press for quick action on immigration reform and share more details about his immigration proposal, which includes a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Obama heads west a day after a bipartisan group of eight senators laid out their blueprint for immigration reform. The White House may consider introducing its own legislation should the Senate plan fall apart, administration officials said.
Under the compromise plan by the senators, known as the “gang of eight,” millions of undocumented immigrants would get immediate but provisional status to live and work in the United States.
The Democratic sources say the president will praise the Senate for the bipartisan blueprint outlined Monday, while stressing that the issue must not get bogged down in the kind of political fights that derailed past bipartisan policy battles. According to sources, he will say there have been bipartisan “gangs” before, and they don’t always lead to results.
The senators’ outline also called for strengthening border controls, improved monitoring of visitors and cracking down on hiring undocumented workers. Only after those steps occurred could the undocumented immigrants already in the country begin the process of getting permanent residence — green cards — as a step toward citizenship, the senators said at a news conference.