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NM delegation applauds push for immigration law

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s call Thursday for a renewed congressional push to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws drew strong support from New Mexico’s congressional delegation, including its only Republican.

“He (Obama) said, ‘Let’s do it now … and let’s do it in a bipartisan fashion,’ and he’s right,” said Rep. Steve Pearce, a New Mexico Republican who represents the state’s border with Mexico. “We cannot afford to wait. We can act now on the aspects of immigration reform we can all agree on. Let’s fix our legal immigration system so that it doesn’t take years to get an answer. Let’s find effective ways to secure the border. Let’s provide answers for the millions living here in fear and confusion.”

Pearce is among House Republicans who would prefer a series of smaller legislative fixes instead of the comprehensive approach Obama is seeking.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M. and a vice chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, also said the time is ripe to pass immigration reform. But he said it is up to House Republicans to make it happen.

“The Senate has passed a bill, House Democrats have introduced a bipartisan bill, and now it is up to Republican leaders in the House to give us a vote,” Luján said. “This legislation is good for our economy, good for our families and good for our security. ”

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said New Mexico would benefit significantly if Congress could move an immigration overhaul bill to the president’s desk.

“In a border state like ours, we know how much we need meaningful reform to secure the border and keep our communities safe, bring the millions of undocumented people already living here out of the shadows, and provide a tough but fair path to earned citizenship that includes learning English and paying back taxes,” Udall said. “Is it doable? Yes, I believe the House has a bipartisan majority in favor of comprehensive reform, and it can pass if House leaders are willing to put aside partisan politics.”

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., also said she’s optimistic about a compromise.

“Passing comprehensive immigration reform is one of (Obama’s) top priorities, and the same is true for many in Congress – both Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “I am confident that the votes exist in the House of Representatives to pass this bill today – all that’s left is for Speaker (of the House John) Boehner to allow a vote.”

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said that the Senate has passed a reform bill and that now it’s time for the Republican-controlled House to do the same.

“When it comes to fixing our nation’s immigration system, the Senate has shown that compromise and bipartisanship are possible,” Heinrich said. “Despite our differences, this is an issue on which both parties can come together and find common ground. With bipartisan support building in Congress and a president who is eager to solve the immigration problem, there is no reason we should not get this done this year.”