Changes likely in US immigration norms

US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that long-sought reforms to a “broken” immigration system were within America’s grasp, seeking to lock in rare momentum towards a major cross-party compromise.

Obama laid out principles on the divisive issue which would nudge 11 million illegal immigrants slowly towards citizenship within stronger US borders and let prized foreign students stay on after graduation to boost the US economy.

He also praised a bipartisan group of senators who on Monday unveiled their own guidelines for legislation on an issue that would represent a major legacy achievement for  Obama at the start of his final White House term.

“The question now is simple. Do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government, to finally put this issue behind us? I believe that we do,” Obama said during a lightning stop in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I believe we are finally at a moment where comprehensive reform is within our grasp,” Obama said, at a point in history when Republicans want to thwart Democratic primacy among Hispanic voters, for whom immigration is a key issue.

“Now is the time. Now is the time. Now is the time,” Obama said. The president sought to harness signs of unusual consensus in sharply divided Washington over immigration reform, six years after the last attempt to overhaul the system ended in a spectacular and politically toxic failure.

Obama noted that his plan, first unveiled in detail in 2011, covered similar ground as the Senate approach. Offer illegal immigrants a long path to permanent residency and citizenship, requiring them to pay back taxes, learn English, have background checks and demonstrate familiarity with US culture.

Include efforts to strengthen US borders and visa systems and speed a path out of limbo by young people brought to the country illegally by their parents.

Improve worker verification systems that deter illegal immigration and dismantle barriers to highly skilled foreign workers entering US to catalyze future economic growth.

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