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Obama to press immigration bill

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 8:27 p.m.
President Obama boards Air Force One in San Jose, Costa Rica at the close of his visit to Latin America on Saturday, May 4, 2013.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — President Obama on Saturday completed a three-day visit to Mexico and Costa Rica and now returns to Washington with hopes of finishing an overhaul of immigration laws.

Obama has said repeatedly during his trip that he strongly supports a bipartisan Senate bill that rewrites immigration laws, even if it does not precisely match his vision. The Senate Judiciary Committee is accepting proposed amendments to the bill through Tuesday before taking it up on Thursday. A full Senate vote is expected in June.

In comments late Friday at a news conference in Costa Rica, the president reaffirmed that he believes the gay and lesbian partners of American citizens should be treated in the same way as straight people under immigration laws.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, has suggested he would introduce an amendment to the bill to accomplish this goal, but Republicans have said it would be a poison pill, and there is little expectation it will be in the final version.

“I've said in the past that the LGBT community should be treated like everybody else,” Obama said. “That's, to me, the essential, core principle behind our founding documents.”

He did not say the LGBT component was critical.

“This bill is a compromise, which means that nobody got everything they wanted, including me,” Obama said on Saturday in his weekly address. “So there's no reason that immigration reform can't become a reality this year.”

Even as many Republicans say they support an overhaul of immigration laws, it is still expected to be a long process, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a leader of the effort, saying last week that the current Senate agreement would not make it through the Republican-controlled House.

But during the trip, Obama expressed confidence that a final bill would not only gain his support by including a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States but ultimately would pass Congress.

“I would expect that not only will I be supportive, but also I think we can get it through the House,” Obama told Univision in Mexico on Friday before leaving for Costa Rica. “It's the smart thing to do.”

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