CAIRO - An umbrella Muslim group has called for US senators to agree an immigration reform to help find a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented residents in the United States.
"Now is the time to act because comprehensive immigration reform can't wait," Robert McCaw, Government Affairs Coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net on Wednesday, January 30.
A bipartisan group of senators unveiled earlier this week a plan to reform the US immigration system.
The plan aims to find a path to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented residents in the country.
It includes measures to strengthen border security and combat visa overstays as pre-conditions for putting most of the country's illegal immigrants on a path towards citizenship.
The plan also aims to improve the legal immigration system, attract the world's best and brightest and enhance employment verification.
The outline also seeks to strengthen prohibitions against racial profiling and inappropriate use of force.
"CAIR supports this bipartisan attempt to find common ground and break through the tired rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate, McCaw said.
As concerned citizens, we need to work together and urge our senators to join this bipartisan bloc and adopt lasting reform of our immigration system."
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday supported the proposal for reforming the immigration system.
"I'm here today because the time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform," Obama said at a high school in Nevada, home to a large community of Hispanic immigrants.
"The time is now. Now is the time."
Immigration reform could give Obama a landmark second-term legislative achievement, but the White House is mindful that success on such a divisive issue will require a delicate balancing act.
The last major attempt at an immigration overhaul was done by Republican President George W. Bush in 2007. It collapsed in Congress.
Obama did not follow through with a promise to seek an overhaul in his first term, fearing a repeat of the earlier debacle.
"We can't allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate, Obama was quoted as saying by Reuters.
We've been debating this a very long time. So it's not as if we don't know technically what needs to get done.
Obama's push for immigration reform has won praise from immigrants.
It was very positive, very powerful, Petra Falcon of the advocacy group Promise Arizona, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
I liked the fact that (Obama) talked about reuniting families. That is important.
Action on immigration was sidelined by economic issues and healthcare reform during Obama's first term.
But he unveiled the reform last week in his second inaugural address as part of an ambitious liberal agenda, which also includes gun control, gay rights and fighting climate change.
But differences quickly emerged between what Obama would like and the proposals by the bipartisan senators, whose plan is heavy on border security.
Obama pushed for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants that is faster than the one the Senate group proposed.
Rather than emphasize border security first, he would let undocumented immigrants get on a path to citizenship if they first undergo national security and criminal background checks, pay penalties, learn English and get behind those foreigners seeking to immigrate legally.
In addition, Obama made no mention of creating a temporary guest worker program geared to the low-skilled, labor-intensive agricultural industry. Labor unions do not yet support such a program.
Another point of contention is expected to be whether same-sex couples are granted the same benefits as heterosexual couples under immigration reform - something the White House says Obama will insist upon but which the Senate group did not deal with.
"We all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship," Obama said.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) said Obama's plan and that of a bipartisan group of Senators showed the emerging consensus.
The president's remarks demonstrate consensus on key immigration reform principles that will bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and into the fold of our American democracy, it said in a statement.Immigrants and their families play a vital role in this country, and their full integration into the fabric of our civic life will help ensure our nation and its economy thrives for years to come.