President Obama In Vegas to Push His Plan for Immigration Reform

Seeking swift action a day after a group of influential senators unveiled their own proposal, President Barack Obama will be in Las Vegas on Tuesday to unveil his own vision on how to  overhaul the country's immigration system.

Obama's attempting to rally public support behind his proposal for giving millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, as well as making improvements to the legal immigration system and boosting border security.

The first trip of his second term, Obama will launch his push at a campaign-style event at Del Sol High School.

A 2011 Pew Hispanic Center study found that undocumented immigrants account for 7.2 percent of Nevada residents. That's a larger portion than any other state.

Undocumented immigrants also account for 10 percent of the state’s workforce, playing a large role in the Nevada economy.

Administration officials said Obama would largely endorse the senators' efforts, though immigration advocates said they expected the president's own proposals to be even more liberal than the vision  presented by the senators, including a faster pathway to citizenship.

The simultaneous immigration campaigns were spurred by the November presidential election, in which Obama won an overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters.

Nationally, Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote, giving him a key advantage over Republican rival Mitt Romney.

The overall results caused Republican lawmakers who had previously opposed immigration reform to reconsider in order to rebuild the party's reputation among Latinos, an increasingly powerful political force.

Most of the recommendations Obama will make Tuesday are not new. He outlined an immigration blueprint in May 2011 but exerted little political capital to get it passed by Congress, to the disappointment of many Hispanics.

Obama "believes that we are at a moment now where there seems to be support coalescing at a bipartisan level behind the very principles that he has long put forward and behind principles that have in the past enjoyed bipartisan support," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. "And that is a very positive thing."

The president was to make his pitch in Nevada, where over a quarter of the population is Latino

A political battleground, Obama handily carried the state in the November election, in large part because of support from Latinos who voted for the President by a 2-to-1 margin.

Administration officials said the president would bolster his 2011 immigration blueprint with some fresh details. His original plan centered on four key areas: a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., improved border security, an overhaul of the legal immigration system and an easier process for businesses to verify the legal status of workers.

Administration officials said they were encouraged to see the Senate backing the same broad principles. In part because of the fast action on Capitol Hill, Obama does not currently plan to send lawmakers formal immigration legislation.

However, officials said the White House does have legislation drafted and could fall back on it should the Senate process stall. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.

Gay and lesbian advocates were also expecting Obama's proposals to include recognition of same-sex couples where one partner is American and another is not.

Obama's previous proposals for creating a pathway to citizenship required those already in the U.S. without documentation to register with the government and submit to security checks; pay registration fees, a series of fines and back taxes; and learn English. After eight years, individuals would be allowed to become legal permanent residents and could eventually become citizens five years later.

The Senate group's pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. would be contingent upon securing the border and improving tracking of people in the U.S. on visas. Linking citizenship to border security could become a sticking point between the White House and lawmakers.

The Senate framework would also require those here without documentation to pass background checks and pay fines and taxes in order to qualify for a "probationary legal status" that would allow them to live and work here — but not qualify for federal benefits — before being able to apply for permanent residency, a critical step toward citizenship. Once they are allowed to apply they would do so behind everyone else already waiting for a green card within the current immigration system.

Passage of legislation by the full Democratic-controlled Senate is far from assured, but the tallest hurdle could come in the House, which is dominated by conservative Republicans who've shown little interest in immigration reform.

The senators involved in formulating the immigration proposals were Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Several of these lawmakers have worked for years on the issue. McCain collaborated with the late Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on comprehensive immigration legislation pushed by then-President George W. Bush in 2007, only to see it collapse in the Senate when it couldn't get enough GOP support.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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