President Barack Obama on Thursday called on lawmakers to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package before the end of the year after the task of resolving the fiscal crisis kept parts of the U.S. government shut down for 16 days and almost caused the country to default on its debts.

"There's already a broad coalition across America that's behind this effort of comprehensive immigration reform, from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement," said the president.

Obama, who talked to reporters about the budget agreement reached Wednesday night in Congress, insisted that immigration reform is a measure that will help jump start the U.S. economy and that must be agreed to as soon as possible.

"In fact, the Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support that would make the biggest commitment to border security in our history, would modernize our legal immigration system, make sure everyone plays by the same rules," he added.

Obama said the Senate measure, which would establish a road to citizenship for the country's 11 million illegal immigrants, would stimulate the economy.

"The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do, and it's sitting there waiting for the House to pass it," the president said. "Now if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let's hear them. Let's start the negotiations. But let's not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years."

"This can and should get done by the end of this year," Obama said.

Immigration reform was moved to the political back burner after, first, the Syrian crisis and, next, the fiscal crisis. EFE