By JULIE PACE and DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Declaring "now is the time" to fix broken immigration laws, President Barack Obama on Tuesday heralded a rare show of bipartisanship between the White House and Senate lawmakers on basic plans for putting millions of illegal immigrants on a pathway to citizenship, cracking down on businesses that employ people illegally and tightening security at the borders.
But both the White House and Senate proposals for tackling the complex and emotionally charged issue still lack key details. And potential roadblocks are already emerging over how to structure the road to citizenship and whether a bill would will same-sex couples - and that's all before a Senate measure can be debated, approved and sent to the Republican-controlled House where opposition is likely to be stronger.
Obama, in the heart of the heavily Hispanic Southwest, said Congress is showing "a genuine desire to get this done soon." But mindful of previous immigrations efforts that have failed, Obama warned that the debate would become more difficult as it gets closer to a conclusion.
"The question now is simple," Obama said during a campaign-style event in Las Vegas, one week after being sworn in for a second term in the White House. "Do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government to finally put this issue behind us? I believe that we do."
Despite possible obstacles to come, the broad agreement between the White House and bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate represents a drastic shift in Washington's willingness to tackle immigration, an issue that has languished for years. Much of that shift is politically motivated, due to the growing influence of Hispanics in presidential and other elections and their overwhelming support for Obama in November.
The separate White House and Senate proposals focus on the same principles: providing a way for most of the estimated 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally to become citizens, strengthening border security, cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and streamlining the legal immigration system.
A consensus around the question of citizenship could help lawmakers clear one major hurdle that has blocked previous immigration efforts. Many Republicans have opposed allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens, saying that would be an unfair reward for people who have broken the law.
Details on how to achieve a pathway to citizenship still could prove to be a major sticking point between the White House and the Senate group, which is comprised of eight lawmakers - four Democrats and four Republicans.
Obama and the Senate lawmakers all want to require people here illegally to register with the government, pass criminal and national security background checks, pay fees and penalties as well as back taxes, and wait until existing immigration backlogs are cleared before getting in line for green cards. After reaching that status, U.S. law says people can become citizens after five years.
The Senate proposal says that entire process couldn't start until the borders were fully secure and tracking of people in the U.S. on visas had improved. Those vague requirements would almost certainly make the timeline for achieving citizenship longer than what the White House is proposing.
The president urged lawmakers to avoid making the citizenship pathway so difficult that it would appear out of reach for many illegal immigrants.
"We all agree that these men and women have to earn their way to citizenship," he said. "But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must make clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship."
"It won't be a quick process, but it will be a fair process," Obama added.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Email Alert Sign Up
Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.
Todd Mills, the man who originated an idea that eventually became the Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Taco, passed away last week at the age of 41 after a battle with brain cancer. Mills, who passed away onMore >>
Todd Mills, the man who originated an idea that eventually became the Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Taco, passed away last week at the age of 41 after a battle with brain cancer.More >>
YUMA, Ariz. (13 On Your Side) - Yuma police want to warn local residents of a high-risk sex offender who has relocated to a new area. Michael Degroot is now living in the 800 block of First Avenue. AlthoughMore >>
Yuma police want to warn local residents of a high-risk sex offender who has relocated to a new area.More >>
(WSCR) Here's something you don't see every day. During this weekend's rivalry game between Arizona and Arizona State an old man got into a shouting match with a young ASU fan before kicking the youngMore >>
During this weekend's rivalry game between Arizona and Arizona State an old man got into a shouting match with a young ASU fan before kicking the young man in the face.More >>
HEMPSTEAD, Texas (AP) — A Texas middle school principal has been placed on paid leave after she banned the speaking of Spanish by students while in class. A Hempstead school district spokeswoman confirmsMore >>
A Texas middle school principal has been placed on paid leave after she banned the speaking of Spanish by students while in class.More >>
PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona judge is refusing to require jurors in the next phase of the Jodi Arias trial to reveal their Twitter usernames so their accounts can be monitored for communications about theMore >>
An Arizona judge is refusing to require jurors in the next phase of the Jodi Arias trial to reveal their Twitter usernames so their accounts can be monitored for communications about the case.More >>
RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) - A Northern California city has voted to ban electronic cigarettes in enclosed public spaces, including fenced parks. The Contra Costa Times reports (http://bit.ly/1bI8JyN) theMore >>
A Northern California city has voted to ban electronic cigarettes in enclosed public spaces, including fenced parks.More >>
Yuma-It's been five days since a homeowner shot and killed a 19 year old man who broke into his home in Somerton in the middle of the night. However, Yuma County Sheriff deputies investigating the caseMore >>
It's been five days since a homeowner shot and killed a 19 year old man who broke into his home in Somerton in the middle of the night.More >>