Smith, who has voted to reduce legal immigration levels for more than two decades, said the president’s proposal, which Obama outlined in a Jan. 29 speech in Las Vegas, “will make it easier for 11 million illegal immigrants to compete with hard-pressed American workers.”
Efforts to hammer out a compromise have accelerated in both the House and the Senate in recent weeks.
In the Senate, a bipartisan group of four Democrats and four Republicans has begun meeting twice a week. Aides are drafting a bill that includes a route to legal status, and more visas for highly skilled or highly educated applicants.
The Democrats – Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet of Colorado – are scheduled to meet Obama on Wednesday afternoon to brief him on the group’s progress.
Obama has said he wants to see the Senate introduce an immigration reform bill next month. If he doesn’t, he has promised to send his own version to the Senate and ask the chamber to vote on it. Activists say that could poison the spirit of cooperation now underway.
Obama has been “really clear… that he’s not going to wait forever,” said Fitz, who was in a group of immigration advocates and labor leaders who met with the president in the West Wing last week. “This isn’t going to get dragged into a back room and be allowed to die a slow and ugly death.”
By Howard Blume
President Obama focused Tuesday night on the ends of the education spectrum — preschool and college. He said in his State of the Union address that his administration would work with states to provide a high-quality preschool program for all. He said only 3 of 10 children currently enroll in such programs, which he said were proven to increase graduation rates and reduce teen pregnancy rates and violent crime.
There has been controversy, however, over the success of federally funded Head Start programs, which, critics have said, are not of consistently high quality. There's also a persistent debate over whether early childhood programs should focus on academic skills or developing creativity and social skills. Either way, the president is likely to meet with resistance if a preschool initiative means a substantial new outlay of federal funds.
Obama also compared American high school graduates with their German peers, who, he said, can leave high school with the equivalent of a community college degree. Obama was not specific about how he would accomplish the same in the United States, although he said there are model programs in this country to emulate.
One of his most interesting and specific proposals dealt with colleges.
“Colleges must do their part to keep costs down,” Obama said, echoing campaign themes voiced by himself and Republican opponent Mitt Romney during the presidential race.
On Tuesday, Obama said he wanted to link federal funding to the affordability and value a college offers. And, he said, the administration is prepared to roll out a score card listing which schools do and do not offer the most “bang for the educational buck.”