Obama plans all-out push for immigration reform
WASHINGTON - As soon as the confrontation over fiscal policy winds down, the Obama administration will begin an all-out drive for comprehensive immigration reform, including seeking a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, according to officials briefed on the plans. While key tactical decisions are still being made, President Barack Obama wants a catchall bill that would also bolster border security measures, ratchet up penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants, and make it easier to bring in foreign workers under special visas, among other elements. Senior White House advisers plan to launch a social media blitz in January, and they expect to tap the same organizations and unions that helped get a record number of Latino voters to re-elect the president. Cabinet secretaries are preparing to make the case for how changes in immigration laws could benefit businesses, education, health care and public safety. Congressional committees could hold hearings on immigration legislation as soon as late January or early February."We are seeing it being organized to be ready," said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of civic engagement and immigration for the National Council of La Raza. The White House declined to discuss its possible strategy while still embroiled in the year-end battle over taxes and spending cuts. A White House official, however, pointed to the president's remarks at a post-election news conference, in which Obama said he would turn to immigration very soon after the inauguration. But Republicans are pushing a go-slow approach. Rather than working on one comprehensive bill, Congress should pass a series of bills that help foreign entrepreneurs, technology workers, agricultural workers and those who were brought to the United States unlawfully as children, said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.