Calling it an economic imperative for the nation, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday renewed his call for Congress to develop a "pathway to citizenship" for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Villaraigosa, in a speech to the National Press Club, took note of the controversy over gun control that has dominated the debate in Congress, but believes legislators can deal with the immigration issue at the same time.

"Washington should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time," Villaraigosa said. "Congress is fully capable of enacting responsible gun safety legislation and comprehensive immigration reform."

Villaraigosa recommended there be six core principles involved in immigration reform, with a goal of having full citizenship for those living in the country illegally.

These include a requirement that legalization be earned after a criminal background check, proof of English-language proficiency and payment of back taxes.

Also, family unification should be a priority with a goal of maximizing the nation's economic competitiveness to retain high-skilled and agricultural workers, include employment verification and smart enforcement at the borders.

"The bottom line in this debate is full citizenship," Villaraigosa said.

The mayor said the Center for American Progress has estimated that legalizing the immigrants now living in the United States would provide a $1.5 trillion boost to the economy over the next decade and add $4.5 billion in tax revenue over the next three years.


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Villaraigosa noted how the debate over immigration reform has evolved over the past several years from the 2006 march on City Hall that drew more than 1 million people demanding immigration reform.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that provided a two-year deferral on deportations for young immigrants who were brought to this country when they were children.

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