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Obama Wants Immigration Reform Done This Year

President Barack Obama on Thursday made his biggest push yet to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.During a bipartisan, bicameral meeting at the White House with nearly three dozen lawmakers, Obama told immigration stakeholders that he wants to wrap up the issue by the end of this year, or by early 2010 at the latest.“There is not by any means consensus across the table,” Obama said after the session. “But what I'm encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue, we've got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now, but to start working on this thing right now.”Democrats said Obama’s message that comprehensive immigration reform should happen sooner than later was loud and clear.“Pushing this off until next year makes it more difficult” politically, due to mid-term elections in November, said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), who attended the meeting. “The president would like to see it done before the end of the year. … He is pretty cognizant in terms of next year and the issues before us.”“We have to get this done this year or it’s not going to happen in the president’s first term,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who was also at the meeting. “We’ve all banged the table enough. We’ve all shouted at each other on television enough. Now it’s time to get down to work. I think the time politically is ripe.”Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) were among the key lawmakers in the meeting. Administration officials included Vice President Joseph Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.During the meeting, Obama told lawmakers that he is “ready to speak out publicly, ready to use whatever capital he had left to make sure immigration reform happens,” Weiner said. Obama also said he has tapped Napolitano to lead a bipartisan, bicameral group to hash out immigration issues in the coming months.Weiner said lawmakers from both parties think the House already has the votes to pass an immigration reform bill built on the same principles as a Senate immigration bill that failed last year.The three key parts to any bill, he said, have to be strong border security, a way to ensure that employers follow the law and a path to legalization for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.Obama also emphasized that people need to be thoughtful about the language they use when talking about undocumented workers.“If we’re going to call everything amnesty and say we’re going to round up the 12 million people here that don’t have documentation, that won’t lead us to a conclusion,” Weiner said.

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