Obama to take lower-key approach on immigration

WASHINGTON -- President Obama flies to Las Vegas Tuesday for the public unveiling of his drive for a comprehensive immigration reform law, but he's not planning to release many specifics, aides say.

Senior administration officials say they’ve had legislative language on immigration in the works for a couple of years. But plans for the speech changed after a bipartisan group of senators reached agreement on their own plan, which they released Monday.

As long as Congress is making progress, one official said, the president feels no need to make the White House draft public. Instead, Obama prefers to work quietly with members of both parties to mesh his principles with theirs.

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Obama's speech is expected to praise the early signs of a consensus in the Senate and urge lawmakers to work quickly while the momentum is with them.

Senior administration officials say he will describe his vision for immigration reform without much departure from the blueprint he first unveiled in spring 2011. He’ll express support for a clear path to citizenship, tighter requirements on employers to check the immigration status of new hires and an increase in the number of visas for high-skilled workers.

He'll also express support for the congressional efforts so far and urge Americans to keep  pressure on their members of Congress to finish the job.

The bipartisan Senate plan would let most illegal residents gain legal status by paying fines and back taxes and passing background checks. They could move toward citizenship after the government determined that the southern U.S. border was secure.

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The senators put the final touches on their proposals as the White House passed word to lawmakers late last week that Obama would launch his effort this week in Nevada. The state is one of several that Obama won in no small measure because of the strong support of Latino voters.

The impact of Latino voters has made immigration reform a cause that Republicans and Democrats both want to join, one administration official said. The fact that Obama was about to call the question appears to have accelerated the Senate process, White House aides believe.

In the House, a group of three Democrats and three Republicans is also working on an immigration bill behind closed doors and may introduce something before the president's State of the Union address on Feb. 12. Members of that working group are expected to meet when the House returns for session next week.

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