NEW YORK – President Barack Obama aims to draft legislation this year allowing illegal immigrants to become legal citizens as part of a major overhaul of the US immigration system, the New York Times said Thursday.
"While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country?s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal," the Times reported, citing a senior administration official.
Obama will portray the effort as "policy reform that controls immigration and makes it an orderly system," said Cecilia Munoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House.
"He intends to start the debate this year," Munoz told the Times.
As a US senator from Illinois, Obama in 2007 voted in favor of immigration reform and made it one of his top campaign issues, winning the key support of 66 percent of some 10 million registered Hispanic voters on election day.
A majority of new US immigrants are Hispanics from neighboring Mexico and also from across Central and South America.
Obama "plans to speak publicly about the issue in May... and over the summer he will convene working groups, including lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups, to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall," the New York Times report said.
The report cited US officials as saying "the Obama administration favors legislation that would bring illegal immigrants into the legal system by recognizing that they violated the law, and imposing fines and other penalties to fit the offense.
"The legislation would seek to prevent future illegal immigration by strengthening border enforcement and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, while creating a national system for verifying the legal immigration status of new workers," it added.
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