WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama Saturday touted the potential economic benefits of a major immigration overhaul currently under debate in Congress as he sought support for the landmark bill.
The reforms under debate would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, reduce unlawful entries and revise guest worker programs for agriculture and high-tech industries.
Immigration is a priority for Obama’s second term, but the overhaul had been put in jeopardy after Republicans demanded tougher border security as a precondition to curb future arrivals of undocumented migrants.
This week, lawmakers forged a deal to double border agents, a key compromise paving the way for the passage of the bill—but success is still far from certain.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama highlighted two independent reports predicting positive economic impacts from the immigration reform.
“A report from the Congressional Budget Office definitively showed that this bipartisan, commonsense bill will help the middle class grow our economy and shrink our deficits, by making sure that every worker in America plays by the same set of rules and pays taxes like everyone else,” Obama said.
“Another report from the independent office that monitors Social Security’s finances ... says that this immigration bill would actually strengthen the long-term health and solvency of Social Security for future generations,” he added.
The bill would help help with “attracting the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers who grow our economy for everyone,” he insisted.
If the Senate passes the legislation next week the House of Representatives could then vote on its own version by the end of July. Both versions must then be reconciled, which could take several months.
Meanwhile, Republicans used their weekly address to speak, for the third week in a row, about student loan interest rates.
Without legislation, rates will double on July 1 for many student loans.
“Our students deserve better,” said John Kline, chairman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee.
“What we need is a long-term solution that gets Washington out of the business of setting rates altogether,” he added.
A GOP proposal would link interest rates to economic factors instead of leaving it up to Congress, something Obama has advocated as well.
But the two sides differ on how high the rate could rise and how early it should be set, with Republicans calling for it not to lock in until graduation.