Mayor talks up immigration in DC, says he will be there a lot

mavillaraigosa-dc-msnbc.jpgMayor Antonio Villaraigosa did the talk show circuit in Washington on Sunday, then spent Monday there talking about immigration reform and telling reporters and Latino leaders that they will likely be seeing a lot more of him. (Oh, really?) He again evaded questions about taking a job with the Obama Administration, but KPCC's Kitty Felde said that as Villaraigosa listed what he's proud of doing here in LA, he "sounded more like he was auditioning for a job." Also from Felde:

Villaraigosa will be pushing gun control issues later this week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting. He’ll stick around for Monday’s inauguration. After that? Villaraigosa says he expects to be in Washington quite frequently the next few months.

Felde said the mayor's appearance in Charlie Sheen's Baja California party suite over the New Year holiday has raised eyebrows in Washington, and may influence whether he is deemed suitable for a job offer from the Obama Administration. As for the immigration speech, Villaraigosa called for comprehensive legislation that "includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million people who are in the United States unlawfully," the LA Times reported.

Illegal immigrants would have to undergo background checks, show English language skills and American civics knowledge and pay back taxes before they could be processed for legal status under his proposal. The overhaul, he said, should include an effective employment verification system and "smart enforcement."

"We've created an immigration system that is long on enforcement but short on opportunity ... a system that happily capitalizes on the labor of millions of undocumented men and women but then refuses to extend them the basic rights and privileges that most of us take for granted," he said.

"The goal of our immigration enforcement policy should be to remove real threats to our borders and inside our country," Villaraigosa said. "We should deport serious offenders. We should not deport people whose most serious crime is a lack of papers."

Here's the lede from ABC News:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said fights on the debt ceiling and spending cuts should not distract Congress from efforts to fix a “broken immigration system” and introduce new comprehensive immigration legislation in 2013.

“They should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Villaraigosa to a crowd of around 70 in Washington, D.C., Monday.

Villaraigosa characterized the current immigration system as “long on enforcement and short on opportunity.”

The mayor also presented a six-part plan for achieving legal residency, which includes an employment verification system, border protection and criminal background checks.

“Legalization should be earned, but not be unattainable,” said Villaraigosa, one of the top-elected Latino officials in the United States and a fierce advocate for a comprehensive immigration bill.

Politico ran an op-ed piece from Villaraigosa today that introduced his immigration reform idea, so the site's story on the lunch speech focused instead on the politics.

“Already we’re hearing the voices of those who did not learn the lessons of November or have chosen to ignore it,” Villaraigosa said during a 17-minute speech at the National Press Gallery in Washington. “‘It is not the right year,’ they say. ‘The agenda is too crowded,’ they caution. We have even heard some point to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary to argue that immigration reform can wait. Well, Washington should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

But his own audience provided an ample demonstration of how easy Washington gets distracted. Of the roughly two dozen queries asked of Villaraigosa during a post-speech Q-and-A session, six focused on gun control, three focused on his political future and three looked at the demographics of President Barack Obama’s winning reelection coalition.

Villaraigosa came to D.C. to deliver his “the time is now” message, appearing on CBS’ “Face The Nation” on Sunday, as well as on CNN and MSNBC.

His official schedule for Tuesday has no events listed, for Washington D.C. or elsewhere. Here's Monday's appearance on MSNBC.

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