In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama is expected to call on Congress to rewrite the nation's immigration laws and allow a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country.
Obama gave a glimpse of his speech last week when he spoke to U.S. House Democrats. He told them that while fixing the economy is critical, part of that solution is reforming immigration and making sure there is equal opportunity for everyone in the country.
"That's way immigration reform is so critical," he said. "I said this is going to be a top priority and an early priority of my administration. I am hearted to see Republicans and Democrats starting to be in a serious conversation about getting this done. Now is the time."
A surprising number of Republicans have come to support comprehensive immigration reform, including even the path to citizenship. The main stumbling block now appears to be how measure progress in closing the Southwest border with Mexico.
Republicans want verifiable guarantees that border security is improving before they sign off on wider reform. Included in the proposed legislation is a version of the DREAM Act that would allow as many as 1.7 million children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country and work or attend school.
Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Rep. Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, said he would go along with the DREAM Act, after having opposed it for years. "The best place to begin (with reform), I think, is with the children," Cantor said. "Let's go ahead and get that under our belt, put a win on the board."
Another critical provision is the use of the federal E-Verify system to force employers to check the immigration status of the workers they hire.
If Congress can continue to make progress, Obama is hoping to sign a reform law within the next few months.
Across the country, immigration lawyers are reporting an increase in business as clients seek advice on how to take advantage of potential reform and deferred action.