Obama wants to "begin" immigration reform this year

* Arizona law galvanizes important voting bloc

* Slim chances of U.S. immigration bill passing this year

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON, May 5 (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama said
on Wednesday he wanted to “begin work” on immigration reform
this year and that U.S. officials would monitor a controversial
new law in Arizona for civil rights implications.

Obama has been under pressure to keep his promise from the
2008 presidential campaign to overhaul U.S. immigration rules.

A tough new law in Arizona has brought the issue to the
forefront of public debate and galvanized Hispanic voters, a
key group whose support Obama’s Democrats need in November
congressional elections.

The president addressed the issue at a White House event to
mark Cinco de Mayo celebrations honoring Mexican culture and

“The way to fix our broken immigration system is through
common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.

“I want to begin work this year, and I want Democrats and
Republicans to work with me — because we’ve got to stay true
to who we are, a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”

Obama’s comments seemed aimed at damping hopes an
immigration bill would make it through Congress and become law
this year.

Democrats have unveiled a framework for reforming
immigration rules, which Obama has welcomed, but it is unclear
whether the 100-member Senate has the 60 votes needed to pass
the bill.

“Make no mistake, our immigration system is broken. And
after so many years in which Washington has failed to meet its
responsibilities, Americans are right to be frustrated,
including folks along border states,” Obama said.

“But the answer isn’t to undermine fundamental principles
that define us as a nation. We can’t start singling out people
because of who they look like, or how they talk, or how they
dress,” he said.

The Arizona law requires state and local police to
determine if people are in the country illegally, previously a
function carried out by U.S. federal immigration police and
some local forces.

Critics of the law argue it is unconstitutional and a
mandate for racial profiling, and fear it will destroy trust
between Hispanic communities and law enforcement in the border

Supporters say the law is needed to curb crime in Arizona,
home to some 460,000 illegal immigrants and a major corridor
for drug and migrant smugglers from Mexico.

“I’ve instructed my administration to closely monitor the
new law in Arizona, to examine the civil rights and other
implications that it may have,” Obama said. “That’s why we have
to close the door on this kind of misconceived action by
meeting our obligations here in Washington.”
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(Additional reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Peter

Obama wants to “begin” immigration reform this year