- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2013

President Obama will begin a major push to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws next week, starting with an address during a trip to Las Vegas Tuesday.

Mr. Obama’s announcement on immigration will coincide with efforts by a bipartisan group of eight senators, who plan to unveil guidelines on the issue around the same time.

Over the past decade, efforts by lawmakers in both parties, as well as a push by President George W. Bush, have foundered in a bid to change the nation’s immigration laws. During his first presidential election in 2008, Mr. Obama promised to address the issue and in 2012 vowed to renew the effort.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president’s trip to Las Vegas is the beginning of a push to redouble efforts to work with Congress on the issue and to build on a immigration blueprint the White House released in May 2011. The president is expected to outline his new immigration policy during his State of the Union address Feb. 12.

Mr. Carney insisted that the president has long been ready to move on the issue.

“What has been absent in the time since he put those principles forward has been a willingness by Republicans, generally speaking, to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform,” Mr. Carney said. “What he hopes is that that dynamic has changed.”

The 2011 plan, unveiled during a trip to El Paso, Texas, would address the status of the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. It would offer illegal workers with family in the country a path to citizenship, help provide farmers a legal way to hire seasonal workers and require those here illegally to register, undergo national security and criminal background checks, learn English, as well as pay taxes and a penalty in order to achieve legal status.

Just months before the 2012 election, Mr. Obama used his executive power to issue an order allowing large numbers of young immigrants living in the country without legal papers a reprieve from deportation.

Hispanic voters voted in record numbers in November, giving Mr. Obama with 71 percent of their votes. Since then, Republicans and Democrats have expressed a renewed desire to work on immigration reform. But despite a new bipartisan momentum, overhauling the country’s immigration laws will be far from are fraught with pitfalls and peril.

Mr. Obama met with a group of Democratic lawmakers from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Friday morning, including Democratic Reps. Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, who chairs the caucus; Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey; Rep. Xavier Becerra, who chairs the full Democratic caucus; and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, who chairs the CHC’s immigration task force.

A bipartisan group of eight senators are working on their own plan and hope to produce a bill over the next few months. The members of the group include: Mr. Menendez, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Michael Bennet of Colorado, as well as Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Fla., Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

On Monday, leaders of several civil rights and labor groups, including the NAACP, the Service Employees International Union and the Asian American Justice Center, will hold a news conference at the National Press Club to call on Mr. Obama and Congress to act on immigration reform this year.