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SD Area Immigrant Rights Advocates, Officials Weigh in on Obama's Proposals

The president outlined plans for giving some 11 million non-citizens already here a path to citizenship during a speech in Las Vegas.

Immigration proposals by President Barack Obama and a group of senators contain elements that are "worrisome" and "disconcerting," a San Diego-based advocate for immigrant rights said Tuesday.

At a speech in Las Vegas, Obama outlined plans for giving some 11 million non-citizens already here a path to citizenship, along with plans for better control of U.S. borders and having employers verify a person's right to work in the United States.

But Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee, told City News Service that proposals for tightening border security, including the increased use of surveillance drones, were "worrisome" and "a little bit disconcerting."

Rios said he was encouraged by Obama's comments on giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

"The devil is in the details," he said. "In what exactly does that mean the applicants will have to go through?"

The president suggested that those seeking citizenship would go be required to undergo a background check, pay taxes, pay penalties and go to the back of the figurative immigration line.

"It won't be a quick process, but it will be a fair process," Obama said.

According to Rios, there is no such line for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. He said there is no legal way for illegals to get started.

Lorena Gonzalez, CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, welcomed Obama's comments.

"Together with yesterday's Senate proposals, we have a good framework to begin working through the many important details of long-overdue immigration reform," Gonzalez said Tuesday. "Labor has long been a strong supporter of the rights of all workers, no matter where they were born, and I look forward to building better tools to protect those rights."

In a statement about the senators' plan, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said, "The outline is a starting point that recognizes many of the problems in our current immigration system."

Freshman Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, said the Senate agreement was a sign of progress on the issue.

"I am eager to support a plan that provides the companies in our San Diego innovation economy with the skilled workers they need to grow and thrive," Peters said. "I welcome a plan that allows immigrants who have lived here, worked hard, and participated in our society in a productive way to earn their legal citizenship through a fair and thorough process -- especially the children who were brought here by their parents."

Obama said immigration reform was important for pulling millions of people out of a "shadow economy." He said the country would benefit from immigrant children educated in U.S. schools and from foreign entrepreneurs who bring their talents to our shores.

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