Undocumented immigrant Katherine Taberes watches Obama's immigration speech from New York. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama unveiled his vision for immigration reform in a speech on Tuesday afternoon in Las Vegas, Nev., telling Congress that he will send them his own bill and call for a vote if they don't move fast.
"If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away," Obama said to applause from students at Del Sol High School.
"It looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon, and that's very encouraging," Obama said, mentioning a blueprint put forward by a bipartisan group of eight senators on Monday. "But this time action must follow."
Obama's speech was the latest move in a chess match between the White House and some Republicans in Congress to craft an outline for reform that can both be enacted into law while meeting the expectataions of the growing population of Hispanic voters who now overwhelmingly favor Democrats.
Some Republicans want to support immigration reform in part to combat the party's demographic challenges, but the more involved the president is with the bill, the politically riskier it becomes to support it.
In his speech, Obama laid out "markers" for reform, saying any comprehensive immigration bill must give most of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants a chance to earn their citizenship gradually if they pay a fine, learn English and pass a background check. Immigrants would also have to get to "the back of the line," which means people who have already applied for green cards would have their applications processed first.
The president's bill would also include an employment verification system, more border security and a revamping of the legal immigration system to provide more visas for top graduates of U.S. universities and to reduce lengthy wait times for visas for relatives of U.S. citizens.
The president mentioned the blueprint for reform laid out by senators including rising Republican star Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona, Obama's 2008 GOP presidential rival.
The principles of that outline "are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years," Obama said.Read More »from Obama: I’ll introduce my own immigration bill if Congress doesn’t move