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WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama was headed to Las Vegas yesterday to begin to mobilise the US public behind a comprehensive immigration reform drive that could provide a glittering second-term legacy achievement.
Treacherous politics dashed similar efforts under president George W Bush, but the rising muscle of Hispanic voters has shifted political calculations and created the most favourable climate for reform in years. The goal is to offer 11 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship while strengthening border security and finding a way to keep high-flying foreign graduates of US colleges in the country to catalyse economic growth.
Obama repeatedly promised during his first term to push immigration reform and successfully laid the blame for the inertia on the Republican Party, which paid a heavy price as Hispanic voters flocked to the president last November. Now, fearing the prospect of entering another presidential election in 2016 viewed as pariahs among Latino voters, key Senate Republicans have signed on to a bipartisan effort to forge comprehensive reform. Senior Obama aides believe that immigration reform may prove a rare example of an issue in toxic Washington politics where both parties can chalk up a political victory by helping each other out.
Some top Republicans agree, including Senator John McCain, a onetime advocate of comprehensive reform who stepped back when courting conservatives opposed to “amnesty” during his 2008 presidential campaign. “The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens,” McCain said on Monday. “We realise that there are many issues on which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a
White House officials believe that Obama has proven most effective when he is out in the country shaping public opinion rather than being bogged down in the hyper-partisan gridlock of the US capital. AFP