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Obama to lay out new immigration reform blueprint in El Paso

As states take unilateral actions on immigration, Obama lays out his administration's accomplishments with border security and makes the economic case for comprehensive immigration reform.

By Staff Writer / May 10, 2011

President Barack Obama arrives to deliver remarks on immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday, May 10.

Jim Young/Reuters

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President Obama is taking on one of the most divisive issues in American politics, making a renewed case for comprehensive immigration reform in a speech in El Paso, Texas on Tuesday. He'll highlight the administration's accomplishments in securing the border, as well as the economic reasons for immigration legislation.

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Mr. Obama hopes to “create a sense of urgency, around the country, that matches his sense of urgency on the issue,” said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity

Obama will release a “blueprint” outlining both his policy and the necessity of action, the official added.

Obama has spoken before about the need for comprehensive reform – including both tighter enforcement and a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants – but immigration has largely taken a backseat to other issues in the first two years of his presidency. He pushed in December to get the DREAM Act passed, which would have given a path to citizenship to some immigrants brought into the US as children, but the effort failed, deeply disappointing many.

Now, though, Obama is signaling a willingness to put immigration front and center, perhaps in an effort to court crucial Latino votes. Tuesday's speech comes after weeks of meetings on immigration with leaders in the business, faith, law enforcement, and Hispanic communities.

States take action on immigration

The president's push on immigration started shortly after he announced his reelection campaign, at a time when many states are taking their own action on immigration – often in direct opposition to the federal government.

Georgia’s state legislature recently passed a law similar to Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, which gives police authority to check the immigration status of people they detain. Other states are considering similar laws.

At the same time, a number of blue states are pushing back at the administration’s “Secure Communities” initiative. The program seeks to apprehend and deport illegal immigrants guilty of serious crimes by sharing the fingerprints of anyone booked into a local or county jail with the Department of Homeland Security. Critics say that the vast majority of those deported under Secure Communities are guilty of only minor offenses or no crime at all.

Last week, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) announced he was pulling the state out of the program, and on Monday, a group of New York lawmakers urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to do the same. Communities in Massachusetts, California, and Maryland have also voiced opposition to the program, which is supposed to expand to all jurisdictions by 2013.

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