Reactions to the speech reflected hopeful caution that change could be at hand.
US Senator John McCain, a key Republican player, said he appreciated Obama’s support for the Senate plans, and stressed that border security enforcement was particularly important.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for US House Speaker John Boehner, advised Obama not to “drag the debate to the left,” in a sign that the Republican party leadership faces a tough sell on immigration reform to its members in the House.
Key Democratic US Senator Chuck Schumer complimented the president for handling the issue “perfectly” by stressing urgency while allowing both sides space to form a coalition.
Treacherous politics dashed similar reform efforts under former US president George W. Bush, but the rising muscle of Hispanic voters has shifted political calculations and created the most favorable climate for reform in years.
Obama repeatedly promised during his first term to push immigration reform and successfully laid the blame on gridlock on Republicans, who paid a heavy price as Hispanic voters flocked to the president in the presidential election in November last year.