Obama makes economic case for immigration reform

US President Barack Obama meets with business leaders on immigration reform on June 24, 2013 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Mr Obama on Saturday urged Congress to pass a wide-ranging immigration reform bill, saying it wou
US President Barack Obama meets with business leaders on immigration reform on June 24, 2013 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Mr Obama on Saturday urged Congress to pass a wide-ranging immigration reform bill, saying it would trim the US deficit and boost economic growth. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia (AFP) - US President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Congress to pass a wide-ranging immigration reform bill, saying it would trim the US deficit and boost economic growth.

His message was aimed at the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which has balked at approving a bipartisan Senate bill that would beef up border security while providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.

"Immigration reform would make it easier for highly-skilled immigrants and those who study at our colleges and universities to start businesses and create jobs right here in America," Mr Obama said in a weekly video address.

"Foreign companies would be more likely to invest here. The demand for goods and services would go up, creating more jobs for American workers.

"Every worker and business would be required to pay their fair share in taxes, reducing our deficit by nearly US$850 billion (S$1.07 trillion) over the next two decades" and helping to preserve social programmes, Mr Obama said.

In a report issued on Wednesday, the administration said the bill would grow the economy by 5.4 per cent over two decades and shrink the federal debt by three per cent as a share of the economy by 2023.

Should the bill become law, it would be the most far-reaching immigration reform passed in nearly 30 years and a signature achievement for Mr Obama's thus far lacklustre second term.

Supporters of the bill had hoped to rally Republicans behind it after the increasingly powerful Hispanic vote swung against them in the 2012 elections.

But many House Republicans, particularly those from conservative districts with few Hispanic constituents, have rejected the Senate bill as "amnesty" for people they view as law-breakers.

Instead, they have proposed a piecemeal approach in which they would first enhance border security.