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White House, senators starting immigration push

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to travel to Nevada next week for the public launch of his effort to pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure this year.

Obama kicked off the effort to pass immigration reform Friday by meeting with Latino members of Congress. During the meeting, the president called immigration his top legislative priority, according to lawmakers present for the session.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in the Senate rushed to finish a statement of principles on immigration after hearing that the White House was going to make an announcement about immigration on Tuesday. So far, members of a six-person bipartisan working group have committed to putting their names on a joint statement on what should be in an immigration overhaul bill, according to a Senate aide.

The group consists of Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., have participated in some of the meetings.

Obama outlined the main priorities he seeks in an immigration bill in a speech almost two years ago, including a pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. But at that point the plan seemed doomed in Congress.

The November election changed the dynamics as Republicans realized how the loss of Latino voters had hurt them, both in the presidential race and in several Senate contests.

Many Republicans have now decided the party needs to get the divisive debate over immigration behind them, although a strong segment, particularly in the House, continues to oppose anything that appears to be "amnesty" for those who entered the country illegally.

New chief of staff

President Barack Obama selected a close aide and foreign policy adviser as his next chief of staff Friday, part of a White House shakeup that signaled the president intends to rely on familiar faces in his second term. Denis McDonough, a deputy national security adviser and a longtime Obama aide, replaces Jack Lew, the nominee to lead the Treasury Department.

White House, senators starting immigration push 01/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 11:08pm]
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