Obama delivers immigration speech in Las Veas, Nevada on January 29th, 2012. (Pete Souza/White House/UPI)
LAS VEGAS, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- President Obama told a cheering crowd in Las Vegas Tuesday it's time to fix "an immigration system that's out of date and badly broken."
The president said the principles he would be advancing had three prongs: tighter border security; helping the 11 million illegal aliens earn citizenship -- "It won't be a quick process but it will be a fair process" -- and bringing "our immigration system into the 21st century. You shouldn't have to wait years to join your family here in America."
Obama appeared to be letting Congress take the lead. But if Congress delays action, Obama said he will send up his own bill to Congress "and insist they act on it right away."
Obama warned, "The closer we get [to immigration reform] the more emotional this debate is going to come," taking an "us versus them" tenor.
However, "A lot of folks forget that most of us used to be them," Obama said. "All those folks before they were us, they were them."
Before outlining his immigration plan at Del Sol High School, Obama said, "A broad consensus is emerging and ... a broad call for action can be heard from all across America" for "common sense immigration reform."
The president said companies and immigrants have to be more transparent. "We have to bring this shadow economy into the light so that everyone is accountable," he said.
"The good news is that -- for the first time in many years -- Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together," Obama said. "Members of both parties, in both chambers, are actively working on a solution. And yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I've proposed and campaigned on for the last few years.
"At this moment, it looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that's very encouraging."
Earlier, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned Obama not to deliver a partisan speech.
McConnell said in a statement he hoped Obama would "take a bipartisan approach."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said through a spokesman he welcomed the blueprint worked out by eight senators, including Marco Rubio, R-Fla., even though it offers a path to citizenship for many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants that conservatives have generally opposed.
Boehner "is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days," Michael Steel said.
Obama's proposal, as previewed on the White House website, differs in at least one key way from the senators' framework, which requires the border with Mexico be deemed secure before letting anyone in the United States illegally get citizenship.
Obama will not endorse such a proposal, an administration official told The Washington Post.