Obama urges Republicans join him on immigration

By Steve Holland and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama urged Republicans on Thursday to help him develop a comprehensive U.S. immigration overhaul even as they pushed for tougher border security measures.

Obama, who is sending 1,200 National Guard troops to Arizona’s border with Mexico, told a White House news conference “we’re not going to solve” America’s immigration dilemma simply by sending troops.

The debate has intensified in the past month since Arizona passed a law that requires police to check the residency status of anyone they suspect is in the United States illegally.

Obama wants a new immigration law approved this year or next that would create an “orderly, fair, humane immigration framework in which people are able to immigrate to this country in a legal fashion.”

Obama’s Democrats control both houses of Congress, but their majorities are not large enough to overcome Republican blocking tactics.

“I don’t even need you to meet me halfway. Meet me a quarter of the way,” Obama said he told Republicans at a Capitol Hill meeting on Tuesday.

A new law this year seems unlikely because political battle lines are drawn for congressional elections in November in which Republicans hope to pick up seats.

The Democratic-led Senate on Thursday rejected a push by Republican Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas, introduced as amendments to a spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to send more troops, patrol agents and investigators to the Mexico border.

But later Thursday McCain convinced his fellow members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to approve border reinforcements as part of a separate defense bill.

“At least 6,000 National Guard must be deployed to assist border patrol in stopping the illegal immigration, drug smugglers and human traffickers flowing across the border,” said McCain, who faces a conservative challenger in a tough campaign for re-election.

IMMIGRATION IMPASSE?

“We all know what we have to do, which is a comprehensive” overhaul of immigration laws, said New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.

Activists on both sides of the debate said Obama’s plans to send troops and seek $500 million for security may appease critics of the Democrat’s plans to push comprehensive immigration reform but were unlikely to break a congressional impasse before the November elections.

“The chances of moving anything this year are pretty slim.” Still, “I think it’s a useful step, because I think so many Republicans and centrist Democrats and Americans have grown concerned about the border,” said Tamar Jacoby who heads ImmigrationWorks USA, a pro-reform lobby in Washington.

Steven Camarota, research director at the pro-enforcement Center for Immigration Studies, called sending troops to the border “a symbolic gesture.”

“Obviously, they’re not going to be enforcing immigration law, they are just going to be there for support. It’s not that many people. But, it shows that he (Obama) is listening,” Camarota said.

Obama said the troops would help on intelligence, deal with both drug and human trafficking along the borders and relieve border guards.

Hispanic activists said the troop deployment was a gesture to the pro-enforcement lobby, who would deliver nothing in exchange. U.S. Latinos are pushing Obama to keep promises he made on immigration reform.

“It doesn’t play very well with Hispanics. Our concern is that once again we are ceding our place to those who scream the loudest, to those who are fearful and those who wish to play politics,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera Valladares, of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

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(Additional reporting by Timothy Gaynor in Phoenix, editing by Alan Elsner and Todd Eastham)

Obama urges Republicans join him on immigration