The United States needs to fix its broken immigration system this year, President Barack Obama said Thursday.
"This is not just an idea whose time has come, this is an idea whose time has been around for years now," he said during a White House meeting with business and labor leaders, clergy and other activists working for immigration reform.
"Leaders like all of you have worked together with Republicans and Democrats in this town in good faith for years to try to get this done. And this is the moment when we should be able to finally get the job done," the president said.
The Senate, where Democrats are in the majority, passed a bipartisan reform bill in June, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has made no progress on the issue.
"Democratic leaders have introduced a bill in the House that is similar to the bipartisan Senate bill," Obama said. "So now it's up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not."
Noting that many in the GOP agree on the "need to fix our broken immigration system," the president urged House Republicans with different ideas on reform to speak up.
"I'll be listening," Obama said.
"But what we can't do is just sweep the problem under the rug one more time, leave it for somebody else to solve sometime in the future," he added.
The Senate bill includes extra money for border security and a path to legalization for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, while the president cited an economic study indicating that immigration reform would add $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over 20 years.
"In fact, if there's a good reason not to pass this common-sense reform, I haven't heard it," Obama said.
Immigration reform has been pushed into the background in recent months by the Syrian crisis and the government shutdown/debt ceiling fight. EFE