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Obama: I'm still committed to immigration reform

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama yesterday assured immigration advocates frustrated by the wait for a promised overhaul of U.S. immigration laws that he remains committed to fixing a system he has said is broken.

What remains unclear is whether Congress will send him a bill this year.

Obama also met separately later in the day with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who gave the president an outline of a bill they are drafting.

Obama said afterward in a statement that he "looked forward to reviewing their promising framework."

Obama said he told the senators and the advocacy groups that "my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I will continue to be their partner in this important effort."

The immigration issue is an important one for Obama, who has promised to work to solve the problem. Hispanics voted heavily for Obama in the 2008 presidential election, making the difference in key states such as Florida, and their votes will be critical in the November midterm elections when Obama and his fellow Democrats will be fighting to maintain control of the House and Senate.

Latino voters who don't think progress is being made on the issue may not go to the polls.

After meeting for more than an hour with Obama, immigration advocates told reporters they want Schumer and Graham to at least release their blueprint before a planned March 21 demonstration at the Capitol, with a bill introduced in the Senate soon after.

The relatively short timetable for getting major legislation out of Congress in a midterm election year is one obstacle to getting a bill that combines tougher border enforcement with a pathway to legalization for the estimated 12 million people in the United States illegally.

"We had a very good discussion about the difficulties," said Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union. "I think the president is well aware of it. So are we."

Said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, "It is undeniable that presidential leadership, greater presidential leadership is needed, and the president committed to doing that."

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