Obama to GOP: Push through immigration bill by August

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The GOP-led House should pass an immigration bill in the next 34 days, President Back Obama told reporters during a press conference in South Africa.

“I do urge the House to try to get this done before the August recess,” he said, referring to the Senate bill, which would boost immigration to roughly 46 million people over the next two decades.

“There’s more than enough time,” said Obama.

“This thing has been debated amply, and they’ve got a bunch of weeks to get it done. And now is the time,” claimed Obama, who has said a new immigration law would be a “historic” event.

Republican leaders and legislators in the House are slated to meet July 10 to discuss how they’ll deal with the Senate bill, which could provide the Democrats with tens of millions of extra voters after 2020.

That July 10 date is 22 days before Obama’s target date for passage of a bill, which seems to be one of his highest priorities for 2013.

The August recess starts on Friday, Aug. 2, and it allows legislators to visit their constituents to see what they think of the contentious proposals.

Previous immigration proposals were defeated in 2006 and 2007 when constituents protested the proposed amnesties and immigration increases.

This weekend and week, House legislators are now meeting with local constituents — including groups opposed to the Senate’s immigration rewrite — and with lobby groups. They return to the House July 8.

Polls designed by the bill’s advocates show high support for a conditional amnesty of at least 11 million illegal immigrants.

Polls drafted by the opponents show strong opposition to legalization, and very lopsided opposition to the provisions in the Senate bill that would double immigration and guest workers during a period when 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed.

Tea party groups and conservative leaders, such as Gov. Sarah Palin, say the bill will hurt Americans’ jobs and wages, split the GOP and be used by Democrats to spur racial and ethnic divisions. Their opposition is important because they provided the enthusiasm and votes that won a GOP majority in the House in 2010.

In contrast, advocates of the bill say it will expand the economy by adding more low-skill workers, skilled university graduates and consumers. “Our diversity is a source of strength,” Obama told the press conference.

The bill’s progressive, Latino and business advocates have planned a lobbying, advertising and media blitz over the next several months to pressure GOP leaders into passing an immigration bill with a path to citizenship and an increased supply of guest-workers.

The 1,200-page comprehensive bill passed the Senate Thursday. The bill would provide a staged amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants, greatly increase spending on securing the U.S. Mexico border, grant new legal rights to future illegal immigrants, and double the current immigration rate of 1 million people per year.

House legislators have drafted several small-scale bills that would ease the enforcement of immigration law inside the United States, and also increase the flow of agricultural guest-workers and university graduates for professional jobs.

The GOP’s bills have not been scheduled for a vote on the House floor.

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