Barack Obama urged to reject tying immigration reform to border security
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 legal applicants.
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.
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