Obama urges Senate to pass immigration overhaul bill

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President Barack Obama gestures during a statment about the Affordable Care Act, Friday, June 7, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. Speaking about the NSA collecting of phone records, the president said`Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,’ just numbers and duration. AP

WASHINGTON—US President Barack Obama on Saturday urged lawmakers to pass an immigration overhaul bill that the Senate is due to debate this week, saying that it was “commonsense” though not perfect.

“For years, our out-of-date immigration system has actually harmed our economy and threatened our security,” Obama said in his weekly radio and television address.

“The bill before the Senate isn’t perfect. It’s a compromise. Nobody will get everything they want — not Democrats, not Republicans, not me,” he conceded.

“But it is a bill that’s largely consistent with the principles I’ve repeatedly laid out for commonsense immigration reform.”

The bill — contentious and potentially historic, crafted with bipartisan support — includes requirements for major advances in border security, visa programs for high- and low-skilled workers, and expansion of a comprehensive e-verify system for employers.

“That’s what immigration reform looks like…. They’re all commonsense steps,” Obama said.

“So there is no reason that Congress can’t work together to send a bill to my desk by the end of the summer.”

The bill needs 60 votes to pass the 100-seat Senate, and would then head to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where its fate is uncertain and where lawmakers are drawing up their own immigration legislation.

Since their defeat in the 2012 presidential elections, Republican leaders have shifted positions and now support immigration reform in the hope of winning back the Hispanic electorate, whose clout is expected to grow in future elections.

But the party’s right wing still poses a big obstacle, with conservatives resisting what they see as an “amnesty” for immigrants who broke the law by staying in the country illegally.

The president urged Americans to contact their representatives to help advocate for the bill to pass, saying “tell them we have the power to do this in a way that lives up to our traditions as a nation of laws, and a nation of immigrants.”

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