With bipartisan momentum building in the U.S. Senate for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system, President Obama laid out broad principles for reform Tuesday, declaring "most Americans agree that it's time to fix a system that's been broken for way too long."
The president said immigration reform must allow those already in the country illegally the chance to apply for citizenship, while at the same time cracking down on security at the border and enforcement in the workplace. To a large degree, the president's speech echoed cornerstones of a plan offered Monday by a bipartisan group of eight senators.
Perhaps predictably on a complex, multifacted issue that for years has vexed lawmakers and at least two presidents, Central Texans' reaction to the president's remarks, as well as the Senate proposal, covered the spectrum. Previous attempts at immigration reform have cratered, most notably over the issue of a pathway to citizenship, which opponents view as amnesty for illegal behavior.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican who represents parts of Austin and Travis County and who serves on the House Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee, said the nation's immigration laws aren't broken. "They just aren't enforced," Smith said in a statement on his website.
On Monday, Smith blasted calls for a path to citizenship, saying it would only lead to more illegal immigration.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the president had broken promises to deliver immigration reform before.
"Let's hope the president is finally willing to work with both houses of Congress in a transparent way to secure the border, enforce current law and address our broken immigration system," Cornyn said in a statement.
But U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, said the president's remarks and the Senate bipartisan plan offered a good start. Doggett said he supports reforms that include a path to citizenship "for taxpaying, law-abiding immigrants and, of course, the DREAM Act," legislation that would allow some unauthorized immigrants brought here as children the opportunity to apply for citizenship.
"But I think the president and the Senate need to lead, because there are so many House Republicans who cling to their anti-immigrant fervor," Doggett said.
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