Julian Castro, the popular Democratic mayor of San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday urged the House of Representatives to approve comprehensive immigration reform.

"America is watching. Let's get this done," the mayor said at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

This is the first session on immigration to be held by the 113th Congress and is part of the debate on immigration reform that President Barack Obama is promoting as a key element of his second term.

Castro was accompanied by university professors and civil activists who gave testimony about the problems and failures of the current immigration system.

"What Americans deserve is a system that works - a system that is efficient," said the Texas politician, a rising Hispanic star in the Democratic Party.

It is calculated that about 11 million undocumented foreigners live in the United States.

Despite the fact that Republicans and Democrats agree on the need for reforming the immigration system to adjust it to the new economic necessities, they differ on the how to bring the reform about.

They especially disagree on the issue of whether undocumented immigrants should be guaranteed a path to full citizenship, a matter on which the Republicans appear to be sharply divided.

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, asked Castro if he had seen any "options to consider between the extremes of mass deportation and pathway to citizenship?"

Castro rejected the characterization of a path to citizenship as extreme and said that Obama's proposal for "earned citizenship" represents a middle way between mass deportation and open borders. EFE