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Obama draft immigration plan draws criticism

Republicans and Democrats, sceptical over leaked draft bill, push for the US president to wait for bipartisan support.
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2013 07:24
Senator Charles Schumer wants support to eight bipartisan lawmakers working on immigration reform [Getty]

US Republicans and Democrats have predicted President Barack Obama would fail if he pushed forward with his own effort to overhaul the immigration system

Republican Senator John McCain said on Sunday that the administration's efforts would come up short if the White House went forward with a proposal to put the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US on a long pathway to citizenship.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who met Obama on Wednesday at the White House to discuss progress, urged his allies in the administration to give a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers the time to hammer out a deal on their own.

Shifts in the political landscape have put an immigration overhaul closer to reality.

Hispanics made up 10 percent of the electorate in the November election, and Obama won about 70 percent of their votes.

The general election forced some Republican congress members to reconsider their opposition to comprehensive immigration changes, clearing the way for the swift consensus that has emerged between the White House and bipartisan lawmakers in recent weeks.

Obama's newly appointed chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said the White House would only send its plan to Congress if the lawmakers stumble in their efforts and cast its efforts as a backup plan.

“Well, let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed,'' McDonough said of Obama's pitch, first reported on USA Today's website late on Saturday.

The administration "will be prepared with our own plan if these ongoing talks between Republicans and Democrats up on Capitol Hill break down", McDonough said in a second interview, adding that he was optimistic they would not crumble.

Nudging politicians

The US administration's proposal would create a visa for those in the country illegally and allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years, and they would later be eligible to become US citizens.

The proposal also includes more funding for border security and requires businesses to adopt a system for verifying the immigration status new hires.

USA Today reported that the bill would require that immigrants pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa.

Many of the details in the administration's draft proposal follow the broad principles that Obama previously outlined.

But the fact the administration is writing its own alternative indicated that Obama wants to address immigration sooner rather than later and perhaps was looking to nudge lawmakers to move more quickly.

The draft bill drew immediate criticism from Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

“If actually proposed, the president's bill would be dead on arrival in congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come,'' said Rubio, who is among the eight congress members searching for a comprehensive bipartisan plan.

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