Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Wednesday he wants Congress to work on comprehensive immigration reform this year because that would be the best way to fix the nation's broken immigration system.
Speaking at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House, Obama again criticized the recently enacted Arizona immigration law as the wrong approach.
"The answer isn't to undermine fundamental principles that define us as a nation," Obama said to applause. He called instead for "common-sense comprehensive immigration reform."
Obama said Congress should begin work now on the issue, in an apparent effort to clarify his comment last week that the political climate might be too difficult to take up immigration reform.
"I was pleased to see a strong proposal for comprehensive reform presented in the Senate last week, and I was pleased it was based on a bipiartsan framework," Obama said. "I want to begin work this year. And I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me."
Without a comprehensive federal approach, the president said, state and local authorities would continue to take "misconceived" steps at addressing the illegal immigration problem such as the recently enacted Arizona law that allows police to ask anyone for proof of legal U.S. residency.
Critics say the law will lead to racial profiling, while supporters say it involves no racial profiling and is needed to crack down on increasing crime involving illegal immigrants.
In Arizona, the city councils of Tucson and Flagstaff have decided to file a lawsuit against the new immigration law. Members of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, meanwhile, planned to wear jerseys in Wednesday night's playoff game that say "Los Suns" as a tribute to the state's Latino community, Suns' managing partner Robert Sarver said in a statement.
Obama made a reference to the basketball team's gesture, saying that some attending the White House celebration probably wanted to watch the game between the San Antonio Spurs and "Los Suns."
"Make no mistake - our immigration system is broken" and people were right to be frustrated, including those in border states such as Arizona, Obama said.
However, "we can't start singling out people depending on who they look like or how they talk or how they dress," he said, adding he has asked for a review of the Arizona law.
Comprehensive immigration reform would include continuing government efforts to secure borders from illegal immigrants, as well as steps to crack down on businesses employing illegal immigrants, Obama said.
In addition, he said, those living illegally in the United States would have to pay a penalty and any taxes they owe, learn English, "make themselves right with the law" and then start the process of gaining legal citizenship.
He said getting congressional approval for a bill would "be tough," and added: "We need bipartisan support, but it can be done and it needs to be done."
I call on Latino Republicans like Marco Rubio of Democrat Guiteirez to propose a plan to address illegal immigration. It will need to be tough enough to satisfy both sides and Latino leaders will have to step up to the plate.
Seal the border ... it is a security issue ... nothing racist with that.
Headline should read: Obama afraid to go to Arizona for fear of being deported because he can’t prove his citizenship.
Obama afraid to go to Arizona for fear of being deported because he can’t prove his citizenship.
Obama is playing to his Latino voters on this one. While in the Senate Obama stood against the immigration initiative forged by John McCain and Ted Kennedy and promoted by George Bush. And the democratic majority in Congress during Bush's last 2 years stood firmly AGAINST immigration reform
Obama is talking out of both sides of his mouth
How about just enforcing the laws that are on the books and providing some meaningful border patrol. If it is this easy for latin americans to cross the border, who else is coming across that border? That is the part that scares me.
November can't get here soon enough. But I believe the damage done by this administration is pretty bad. I believe the Dem game plan all along was secure congress and the oval office and just pass whatever crazy stuff they could for two years. They'll lose the mid-term and probably the Presidency, but it won't matter, by that time they'd knock this country back decades. Alas, all the stupid people that voted these idiots into office.
Mr. President let's have a live summit to put everything on the table, so Republicans can't politicize this bill.
Better hurry!! The dems have to get all those new voters by November!!
For at least the last 7 or 8 years I have heard politicians on both sides of the aisle throw out 12 million illegals in the country. I suspect the number is double.
Think of it – Obama rams through ill advised immigration "reform" = gives the illegals status, they vote, they vote for Obama and his merry band of jack booted thugs.
When he learns he can't win in 2012 he'll just "cram the caucus hall" by giving 20+ million illegals the vote – they are living virtually everywhere and overnight become a major political force (for Obama of course).
The government should at least be honest about the number of illegals – perhaps they don't kniow – wouldn't be a surprise – I tend to believe they do know and won't be honest about it.
Nothing will be done to cap the flow of this disaster – the source is Mexico – address the problem please or local governments will have no choice but to defend their citizens.
Immigration reform has been long overdue. However, I think that politics are going to dictate on when immigration reform will happen. Both sides have somethign to gain, and something to lose from immigration reform. Neither want to move quickly on this. Yet, Mr. Obama wants to just push through this reform like he does every other reform, and we will just end up with crap.