White House Said to Expect Immigration Plan in April

The White House anticipates senators drafting immigration legislation will miss their March target date and unveil the bill in April after a two-week congressional break, officials told faith leaders who met with President Barack Obama yesterday.

“They told us it will be after recess,” said Stephan Bauman, the president of World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, who attended the 90-minute session with Obama. Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, told the group the bill could be ready for a Senate vote in May, or “early June at the far-latest,” he said.

Obama has been pressing a bipartisan group of senators to complete their measure this month, and has said he’ll release his own proposed rewrite of immigration policy if they don’t reach a timely agreement.

“The president noted that there is good progress being made by a bipartisan group in the Senate, but urged the leaders to continue to make this important issue a priority,” the White House said in a statement yesterday.

At the meeting with evangelical Christian, Catholic, Jewish and Mormon leaders, among others, Obama emphasized his desire for quick action on the issue, while giving no indication he was ready to pull the plug on the Senate process.

“It was a very hopeful meeting,” Bauman said in an interview. Obama “sees now is the time to get this done. His message was, ‘We like what you’re doing -- could you do it even more?’ ”

Biblical Lens

Bauman’s group is part of a coalition of evangelicals that has begun a multi-pronged campaign to push through an immigration rewrite, in part by encouraging pastors and lawmakers to look at the issue through a biblical lens. The group is organizing telephone campaigns to Congress and paying for advertisements geared toward generating grassroots support.

Senators have raised doubts in recent days that they would complete their work by the end of the month.

“I don’t know the timing,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said in a March 5 interview. “We’re working on it -- as soon as we have it ready.”

Negotiators have been unable to resolve a dispute over a new guest-worker program for lower-skilled immigrants, and are divided over the criteria for admitting future legal immigrants into the U.S.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told the Associated Press this week that it wouldn’t be a good idea to release the measure just before a two-week congressional break, thus giving opponents an opportunity to criticize it while lawmakers are home in their districts.

“You don’t want to leave it hanging out for two weeks to get shot up,” he told the AP.

The Senate recess is scheduled from March 25 to April 5.

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