President Barack Obama sought to inject momentum into the push for U.S. immigration reform on Tuesday, urging lawmakers who were "serious" about the issue to support a Senate bill and highlighting the economic benefits of changing the system.
Obama, who won re-election last year thanks in part to strong support from Latino voters, has made immigration reform a top priority of his second term.
He had not given a major public address on the issue for some time, reflecting a White House strategy of not wanting to get in the way of the bipartisan bill's progress in the Senate.
Obama's speech on Tuesday was the first major departure from that strategy.
The Senate bill would authorize billions of dollars in new spending for enhanced border security and create new visa programs for high- and low-skilled workers in addition to providing a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country.
"If you genuinely believe we need to fix our broken immigration system, there's no good reason to stand in the way of this bill," Obama said at the White House, adding that the bill could be wrapped up by the end of the summer.
"If you're serious about actually fixing the system, then this is the vehicle to do it," he said.
The bill, which has broad support from Obama's Democrats, will need backing from some Republicans in order to give it momentum in the more conservative, Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where the pathway to citizenship provisions face more skepticism.
In a sign of the hurdles to come, House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, said he expected immigration reform to be law by the end of the year, but said the Senate measures to enforce the changes and secure the U.S. border with Mexico were insufficient.
And Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, warned in a speech in the Senate: "In days ahead there will be major changes in this bill if it is to become law."
Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, told ABC television in an interview that aired on Tuesday: "I've got real concerns about the Senate bill, especially in the area of border security and internal enforcement of the system. I'm concerned that it doesn't go far enough."
Boehner added that reforming the nation's immigration system was his top legislative priority this year.
"I think by the end of the year we could have a bill," he told ABC. Asked if that bill would be one to also pass the Democrat-led Senate and be signed into law by President Barack Obama, Boehner said: "No question."