President Obama intensified his call for Congress to take action on immigration reform during remarks at a naturalization ceremony at the White House Monday.
Obama, speaking after 28 men and women immigrants swore their oath of allegiance to the United States, pressured Congress to continue bipartisan talks and resume debate on immigration reform in April. "If we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest then we need to do a better job of welcoming them," he said.
"We've known for years that our immigration system is broken... and after avoiding the problem for years, the time has come to fix it for once and for all," he said. "The time has come for comprehensive immigration reform."
He said he expects his colleagues on Capitol Hill to "work up the political courage" and begin debate on a bill next month.
The president, who has made immigration reform a priority for his second term, acknowledged that it will take work. "We are making progress, but we've got to finish the job." He outlined his own priorities, including a "responsible pathway to earned citizenship," an issue that has been one of the most contentious in the past. Some Republicans, though, have voiced support for such a pathway, including most recently Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who voiced his support this past week.
But it appears that details surrounding the new guest worker program have slowed negotiations between the so-called "gang of eight." According to recent reports, those eight U.S. Senators cannot come to an agreement over how to pay guest workers under a new proposed category that would allow some low-skilled immigrant workers to remain in the country legally. Labor and business groups are at odds over whether these workers deserve American worker wages, or could be paid less.
This issue could keep Congress from making the president's April deadline, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said the two-week recess will prevent the bipartisan coalition from finishing a bill until closer to May.
The president plans to keep up the pressure, mobilizing his new grassroots group, Organizing for America, to put increased attention on the issue this week with an aggressive online campaign highlighting the personal stories of immigrants. As The New York Times first reported, OFA has collected 7,000 stories from supporters, including stories of illegal immigration, that they plan to distribute over social media this week.