President Obama remains committed to passing a broad immigration reform bill early this year, according to a report from the New York Times. White House officials say the president will seek a comprehensive reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country.
Many immigrant rights advocates worried that unfinished congressional deliberations over the government's debt and growing calls for action on gun control could derail earlier White House promises to make immigration reform a top priority in 2013. But the President and members Congress have reiterated their intention to pass an immigration overhaul this year and those plans are on track. I reported last week that a bi-partisan group of Senators were at work over the holidays on a parallel reform proposal.
A Democratic Senate aide told me last week, "The fiscal cliff has not done a whole lot to immigration reform. There's a lot of reporting on that, but it's still moving."
White House officials told the Times that they will put pressure on Congress to pass one major immigration bill, rather than a piecemeal approach that some Republicans favor. Floride Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a leading GOP supporter of immigration reform, told the Wall Street Journal this weekend that he will push for four or five laws that together comprise "a comprehensive package of bills" rather than omnibus legislation.
White House officials also told the Times that the president would not accept a bill that does not include a route to citizenship. Republicans in the past have proposed immigration reform plans that provide immigrants access top permanent legal residency without full citizenship rights. The president would will require undocumented immigrants to pay fines and back taxes and other penalties before gaining legal status.
As I wrote earlier and the Times reported over the weekend, a comprehensive reform plan from the White House will also include a nationwide verification system to stop employers from hiring workers without legal papers; additional visas to deal with growing backlogs; an expanded guest-worker program to bring low-wage workers into the country; and a new program to allow immigrants with graduate degrees to stay.