Obama to Pitch Immigration Reform
President will highlight his stance in an afternoon speech at Del Sol High School
Ed Payne and Tom Cohen CNN
January 29, 2013WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Barack Obama heads to Las Vegas on Tuesday to make his pitch for an overhaul of the immigration system after failing to press the issue during his first four years in office.
With his re-election last November aided by strong support from Latino voters, Obama has made a comprehensive immigration bill a top legislative priority of his second term.
The president will highlight his immigration stance in a speech at 2:55 p.m. ET at Del Sol High School, which has a 54% Hispanic student body, according to U.S. News and World Report rankings.
Senior administration officials say Obama will not introduce new legislation on Tuesday, a day after eight senators unveiled a bipartisan framework for immigration reforms.
Obama came under criticism from Latino activists for failing to deliver on a 2008 campaign promise to make overhauling immigration policy a priority of his first term.
Last year, as his re-election campaign heated up, the Obama administration announced a halt to deportations of some young undocumented immigrants in a move that delighted the Latino community.
Exit polls in November indicated that Latino voters gave overwhelming support to Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, who had advocated a policy that amounted to forcing undocumented immigrants to deport themselves.
On Tuesday, Obama will press for quick action on immigration and share details about his proposal, which includes a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Senate lays out blueprint
The White House may consider introducing its own legislation if the Senate framework made public Monday fails to gain traction, according to the administration officials.
Under the compromise plan by the senators, millions of undocumented immigrants would get immediate but provisional status to live and work in the United States.
The senators' outline also called for strengthening border controls, improved monitoring of visitors and cracking down on hiring undocumented workers.
Only after those steps occurred could the undocumented immigrants already in the country begin the process of getting permanent residence -- green cards -- as a step toward citizenship, the senators said at a news conference.
Conservatives split on reform
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a tea party-backed conservative considered a rising star in the Republican Party, said the goal of the framework he helped put together was a "modern immigration system" that treated everyone fairly, both the undocumented and those waiting to come to America legally.
"None of this is possible if we don't address the reality there are 11 million people in this country who are undocumented," Rubio said Monday.
However, another tea party-backed Republican, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, objected to the framework by his colleagues, saying the guidelines "contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to undocumented immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country."
Other conservatives immediately voiced their opposition to what they called amnesty, a code word on the political right for providing undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.
"When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who serves on the immigration subcommittee in the House. "By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration."
A litany of left-leaning advocacy groups spoke out on the senators' plan, praising it as a good first step but cautioning against harming the rights of workers.
"The people of this country are ready for us to be one country again without second-class people being mistreated simply because they lack paper, even though they are already contributing to our economy and our tax system," NAACP President Ben Jealous said.
Democratic senators backing the plan include Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado. On the Republican side were Rubio, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Durbin said Tuesday that immigration reform must have bipartisan support to work, so it won't include everything everyone wants.
"It's going to look different than what I might write, or the president might write," he said.
House works on own plan
A similar effort on immigration is said to be under way in the House, involving a group of Republicans and Democrats.
Two senior House Democratic sources briefed on the effort told CNN the group was working to release some sort of outline of its plan soon, possibly as early as this week, but concede "they are not as far along as the Senate."
Like the Senate framework, the House plan will include a path to citizenship, but details of how that will work are still being discussed.
The Senate proposal is a good starting point, Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Florida, said Tuesday on CNN.
"I think it puts us in a very good place," he said.
CNN's Dana Bash, Dan Lothian, Jessica Yellin, Deirdre Walsh, Kevin Liptak, Catherine E. Shoichet and Matt Smith contributed to this report.