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Obama Ends Trip To Central America

Reaffirms Hopes for Immigration Reform

San Jose, Costa Rica — President Obama yesterday completed a three-day visit to Mexico and Costa Rica and now returns to Washington with hopes of finishing what could become the biggest accomplishment of his second term: an overhaul of immigration laws.

Obama has said repeatedly during his trip to Mexico City and San Jose that he strongly supports a bipartisan Senate bill that rewrites immigration laws, even if it does not precisely match his vision. The Senate Judiciary Committee is accepting proposed amendments to the bill through Tuesday before taking it up on Thursday. A full Senate vote is expected in June.

“This bill is a compromise, which means that nobody got everything they wanted — including me,” Obama said yesterday in his weekly address. “So there’s no reason that immigration reform can’t become a reality this year.”

Even as many Republicans say they support an overhaul of immigration laws, it is still expected to be a long process, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a leader of the effort, saying last week that the current Senate agreement would not make it through the Republican-controlled House.

But during the trip, Obama expressed confidence that a final bill would not only gain his support by including a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States but also ultimately pass Congress.

“I would expect that not only will I be supportive, but also I think we can get it through the House,” Obama told Univision in Mexico on Friday before leaving for Costa Rica. “It’s the smart thing to do.”

In comments later Friday at a news conference in Costa Rica, the president reaffirmed that he believes the gay and lesbian partners of American citizens should be treated in the same way as straight people under immigration laws.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, has suggested he would introduce an amendment to the bill to accomplish this goal, but Republicans have said it would be a poison pill, and there is little expectation it will be in the final version.

“I’ve said in the past that the LGBT community should be treated like everybody else,” Obama said. “That’s, to me, the essential, core principle behind our founding documents.”

He did not say the LGBT component was critical.

Before leaving Costa Rica yesterday morning, Obama said that tough border security would remain a key element of his approach to immigration and policy in the region.