Washington: US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he wants to begin work this year on legislation overhauling the nation`s immigration system, firming up his commitment on a key priority for Latino voters and lawmakers.
Obama`s comments at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House reaffirmed his long-held support for immigration reform. He went a step further than he has in the past by calling for the work to begin this year.
Latino groups have been calling for Obama to deliver on his campaign promise of making immigration reform a top priority, with some activists and lawmakers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus complaining he wasn`t doing enough.
Obama clouded the issue last week by saying "there may not be an appetite" in Congress to deal with another hot-button issue immediately after gruelling fights over health care and financial regulation.
There also may not be enough time left on the legislative calendar to take up a contentious issue with midterm elections looming in November, but by making the commitment Obama may at least be able to tell Hispanic groups he tried.
Obama acknowledged immigration reform would be difficult to achieve and would require bipartisan support — something that`s lacking in the Senate right now. And he made no commitment to finishing the process this year.
But he said it was the only way to deal with the nation`s immigration problems.
"The way to fix our broken immigration system is through common-sense comprehensive immigration reform," the President said.
"I want to begin work this year and I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, who`s up for re-election in a state with a growing Latino population, also recently said he wants to tackle immigration overhaul this year, although pending energy legislation — another divisive issue — would likely come first.