Washington (CNN) - In less than two hours the president will unveil his latest push for immigration reform at an event in Las Vegas. He will call on Congress to move reform quickly, but also reveal new details of his proposal.
In excerpts released by the White House prior to the speech President Obama is expected to say: "The good news is that – for the first time in many years – Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together. Members of both parties, in both chambers, are actively working on a solution. And yesterday, a bi-partisan group of Senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I've proposed and campaigned on for the last few years. At this moment, it looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that's very encouraging."
According to those briefed on the policy, Obama's call for reform will fit into three categories: better enforcement of immigration laws; providing a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country; and reforming the legal immigration system.
Members of the Obama administration believe the U.S. border, with a record high 18,000 patrol agents along the Southwest border alone, is currently more secure than it ever has been. So their plan will focus on enforcement inside the U.S. The primary focus will be on beefing up enforcement at the workplace by strengthening the E-verify system, making it easier for business owners to determine the legal status of potential employees. Look for the president's plan to include new penalties for businesses that break the law by knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.
A second category will be providing a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. This path will require them to learn English, pay fines and back taxes and get in the "back of the line." Once they reach the front of the line, if they qualify, after five years, they would be eligible for citizenship.
The third category addresses unclogging the legal immigration system which is currently backlogged. Immigrants who come here under legal work visas often find that bringing family, or extending their time in the US, is a Kafka-esque nightmare, officials say. This reform is designed to encourage highly skilled and educated workers to stay in the US. At the present time, many immigrants leave after they give up fighting the immigration system.
Unlike the Senate blueprint released yesterday, a senior administration official confirms that the president's plan would require same-sex couples be treated the same as heterosexual couples throughout the immigration process. The Senate plan also includes proof of work requirements that may or may not be included in the President's plan.