Immigration deal may help 240,000 illegal Indians in US

Washington, Jan 31 (IANS) President Barack Obama hopes to get a comprehensive immigration reform law offering a "pathway to citizenship" to 11 million illegal immigrants, including 240,000 from India, done by the end of this year.

In interviews with Hispanic television networks, Obama said that significant details of a bill still must be worked out by lawmakers, but the progress made by a bipartisan group of senators has given him hope that a deal can get done.

However, given the deep divisions on the issue, Obama said that's contingent on bipartisan negotiations continuing to proceed well.

"The only way this is going to get done is if the Republicans continue to work with Democrats in Congress, in both chambers, to get a bill to my desk," he was quoted as saying by ABC News. "And I'm going to keep on pushing as hard as I can. I believe that the mood is right."

Unveiling his own plan at a campaign style event at a Hispanic majority high school in Las Vegas, Nevada, Obama Tuesday warned that if Congress does not act "in a timely fashion" he will propose a bill "and insist that they vote on it right away".

But on Wednesday he said he was content to let lawmakers hash out the details among themselves for the time being.

"If they are on a path as they have already said, where they want to get a bill done by March, then I think that's a reasonable timeline and I think we can get that done."

"I'm not going to lay down a particular date because I want to give them a little room to debate," he said. "If it slips a week, that's one thing. If it starts slipping three months, that's a problem."

A broad consensus seems to be emerging over immigration reform with Latinos seen as crucial vote banks as 6.8 million or 59 percent of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico. El Salvador was a distant second with 660,000.

At 240,000, barely making two percent of the undocumented immigrants, India ranked seventh after Guatemala, Honduras, China and the Philippines in 2011, according to a March 2012 Department of Homeland Security report.

But illegal immigrants from India were among the fastest growing with their numbers nearly doubling since 2000. Indian immigrants are also generally better educated with many students overstaying their visas as they endlessly wait for green cards.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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