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Obama expects immigration bill soon

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama said he is confident that an immigration bill will pass in the next several months as key senators charged with crafting the legislation indicated that their process is almost complete.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday after touring the U.S.-Mexico border with other lawmakers, New York Sen. Charles Schumer said a bipartisan Senate group is “90 percent” done with its draft of a bill to revamp the immigration law.

“Bottom line is, we are very close,” Schumer, a Democrat who is part of an eight-member group working on the proposal, said in Arizona.

Union workers and business groups disagree over visas for low-skilled workers. Obama and senators from both parties signaled that they are open to solving that dispute and are working on the details.

Overhauling the country's immigration system is Obama's top legislative priority for his second term. Still, wary of undermining talks with Republicans, he has taken a back seat in negotiating a bill.

Obama gave interviews with Spanish-language stations and announced a trip in early May to Mexico and Central America as part of an effort to nudge lawmakers toward a compromise.

“My sense is that they've come close, and my expectation is that we'll actually see a bill on the floor of the Senate next month,” he told Univision.

One area in which his administration differs from the principles circulated in January by the Senate group is over linking a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country to tighter border security — something Republicans want and Obama opposes.

Schumer said the border tour, which he took with fellow Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, and Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, would make it easier for him to explain to his Democratic Senate colleagues why Republicans are insisting on measurable increases in border security as part of a plan. McCain, Flake and Bennet are members of the Senate group.

Schumer said the trip convinced him that federal agents “have adequate manpower but not adequate technology” at the border.

Earlier, McCain posted on his Twitter account that the group had witnessed a woman “a few yards away” climbing an 18-foot security fence to enter the United States during the tour.

“Most of the people who jump over the fence are doing it because they want a better life, and I understand that,” McCain said, adding that part of the group's aim is to provide better legal options for such people.

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