US President Barack Obama has made a strong push for comprehensive immigration reform offering a pathway to citizenship to "harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants" to make the US economy stronger.
"Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants," he said on Tuesday, taking up the contentious issue of how to deal with America's 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, including some 250,000 Indians.
"And right now, leaders from the business, labour, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform," said Obama, listing a key priority of his second term in the State of the Union speech to the US Congress.
"Real reform means strong border security," he said, referring to the US border with Mexico from where over 59 per cent of America's illegal immigrants have come.
"And we can build on the progress my Administration has already made - putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years."
"Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship - a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally," Obama said.
"And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy," he said.
"In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts," said Obama with a call to "Now let's get this done".
"Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away," the US President declared.