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Obama presses 11 Republican senators to revive support for immigration reform

In his first major speech on immigration as president, President Barack Obama says that while the frustrations over it aren't new, Arizona's tough new anti-immigrant law and the protests surrounding it have created new tensions. (July 1)

A slim majority of Americans support the Arizona law, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll, but a similar number also still back a program giving those here illegally the right to earn legal documentation.

"The process of who is and who isn't allowed to enter this country and on what terms has always been contentious, and that remains true," Obama told an audience of 250, including lawmakers and reform advocates.

Although Obama said amnesty would be "unwise and unfair," he also said apprehending all undocumented migrants would be impossible in practice. He argued that the border is more secure than at any time in the past 20 years and that reform is needed in other areas now.

"We can create a pathway for legal status that is fair, reflective of our values, and works," he said. "The question now is whether we will have the courage and political will."

Few in Congress see any chance of a bill making headway in an election year. A White House operation has been underway over the past few months to put the ball firmly in the Republicans' court. In April, Obama called sympathetic Republican senators to see whether a deal could be reached. He also spoke at their caucus lunch recently in a bid to round up support.

Obama has also attempted to show a renewed zeal for reform. He met with advocates Monday to talk about his commitment to the issue. In an hour-long meeting Tuesday, the president and a group of Hispanic members of Congress discussed how to proceed.

Hispanics could play an important part in the Democrats' fortunes in the midterm elections. Two-thirds of Hispanic voters backed Obama in 2008.

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