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Obama White House to Push for Comprehensive Immigration Plan

President Barack Obama plans to push for a comprehensive immigration plan that includes a legislative solution to issues such as undocumented immigrants, according to administration officials.

“The bottom line in this debate is full citizenship,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said today at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington. Americans, in re-electing Obama last year, “rejected a policy of fear and fences,” the mayor said.

While no final decision has been made about when the Democratic White House’s proposal will be formally introduced, administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said they will oppose efforts by Republicans to break immigration legislation into smaller bills.

“We’ve got to reform our immigration system,” Obama said today at a White House news conference.

While Obama didn’t give any details of what his plans are, he said previously that he would begin working on a major immigration bill soon after the formal start of his second term.

Citizenship Path

Even as much of Washington has focused on fiscal issues and curbing gun violence, the administration has been working on a plan for several months. The proposal will include a path to citizenship for the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, according to officials -- an idea opposed as amnesty by Republican critics.

Separately from the White House, a bipartisan group of senators, headed by Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have been working on a parallel bill.

Obama won 71 percent of Latino voters in the 2012 election, a victory that left Republicans willing to take up the immigration issue as a way to change their image with the fast- growing demographic group. National exit polls showed that 10 percent of the electorate was Latino, compared with 9 percent four years ago and 8 percent in 2004.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, said the Republican Party needs to “take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed” demographically.

“If the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they are going to be in trouble,” the retired general, himself a Republican, said on CBS.

‘Comprehensive Approach’

House Speaker John Boehner said in a Nov. 8 interview with ABC News that “a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”

Villaraigosa, speaking yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program, said bringing 11 million undocumented immigrants “into the light” would mean “about a $1.5 trillion impact to the U.S. economy.”

Immigrant-owned businesses employ 1 in 10 U.S. workers in private companies and contribute more than $775 billion of revenue to the nation’s economy, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. The businesses generate about $125 billion in payroll, the nonpartisan advocacy group of 450 mayors and business leaders said in a report last August.

The report, written by Robert Fairlie, an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, analyzed U.S. Census data, including national population and business- owner surveys, to conclude that immigrants, who account for 12.9 percent of the population, started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses in 2011. In 1996, immigrants founded 15 percent of all new businesses, the report said.

Formation Rate

Immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business as the native-born, according to the report. In 2011, the immigrant business-formation rate was 550 new businesses per month for every 100,000 immigrants, while the native-born rate was 270 for every 100,000, according to the report.

The group’s founders are News Corp. (NWSA) Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

The U.S. spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement last year, more than all other major federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a Jan. 7 report by the nonpartisan Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

“We will not meet our immigration challenge through enforcement alone,” Villaraigosa said today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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