Immigration at forefront as Obama meets with Hispanic lawmakers

Broad outreach efforts to Latinos helped re-elect President Obama by a 3-to-1 margin. Anna Werner reports the growing power of the Hispanic vote was clear in three crucial swing states. Justin Sullivan

Putting action behind his words, President Obama held an initial meeting at the White House with Hispanic leaders of Congress on immigration reform, indicating that the issue will, in fact, be a top priority during his second and final term.

"The President made it clear he will continue to lead on this issue, and that he looks forward to working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other key Members of Congress in a bipartisan process to move this debate forward at the earliest possible opportunity," the White House said in a statement following the Friday morning meeting.

Mr. Obama will travel to Las Vegas next week to meet with immigration advocates and gather public momentum on the issue.

Participants walked away confident that the president is dedicated to passing broad immigration legislation. "The President is putting his full weight and attention behind getting a bill signed into law is tremendously helpful," Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said after the meeting. "The President is the quarterback and he will direct the team, call the play, and be pivotal if we succeed."

"After today's meeting, it's clear that President Obama is determined to fix our long broken immigration system," Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., said. "The President expressed a great sense of urgency and that comprehensive immigration reform, including an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, is his top legislative priority."

After winning reelection with a record number of Hispanic votes - Mr. Obama beat Mitt Romney by more than 40 points among Hispanics - the president has promised to reform the immigration system, even mentioning the issue in his inaugural address.

"Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country," the president said on Monday.

Recognizing the importance of the growing voter bloc, Republicans have also begun changing their tone on the issue and have begun talking about immigration reform, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., taking the lead. He has begun working and publicly talking about possible ways to fix the broken system. Addressing one of the most controversial parts of the issue, Rubio told conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin that undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. should have to wait several years before being able to apply for citizenship.

In a previous interview with theWall Street Journal, Rubio said he would like to introduce a "comprehensive package of bills" that address different aspects of immigration, including a guest worker program, high-skilled visas and workplace enforcement.

But former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., who has been an outspoken proponent of immigration reform, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday pushing for a large-scale legislation.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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