By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama put his weight behind legislation unveiled by a bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday to reform the U.S. immigration system and urged lawmakers to advance it quickly.
"This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me. But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform," Obama said in a statement after being briefed by two of the senators involved in crafting the bill, Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican John McCain.
"I urge the Senate to quickly move this bill forward and, as I told Senators Schumer and McCain, I stand willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible," he said.
Obama noted the bill would strengthen security at U.S. borders, hold employers accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers, and "provide a pathway to earned citizenship" for the roughly 11 million people residing in the country illegally.
"It would modernize our legal immigration system so that we're able to reunite families and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers who will help create good paying jobs and grow our economy," Obama said.
"These are all commonsense steps that the majority of Americans support."
The White House has threatened to advance its own immigration bill if lawmakers do not act, but has preferred to let the process play out in Congress.
McCain told reporters at the White House that Americans' attitudes about immigration reform had changed since his failed 2007 attempt at the same goal nearly knocked him out of the 2008 presidential race, which he eventually lost to Obama.
Both he and Schumer said they would like to see Senate action completed by June.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)