Obama presses for urgent action on immigration during meeting with faith leaders

WASHINGTON — Projecting urgency, President Barack Obama said Friday he wants the Senate to pass a comprehensive immigration bill in the next three months, though he is willing to be patient if that timeline slips slightly.

Obama spoke during a meeting with faith leaders, an increasingly powerful part of the coalition seeking to overhaul the nation’s patchwork immigration laws. The private meeting occurred as the White House tries to show it is focused on more than just fiscal issues following Washington’s inability to avert billions in budget cuts and a looming deadline for keeping the government running.

Immigration shot to the forefront of Washington’s agenda — both for Obama and some Republicans — following the November election. Hispanic voters made up 10 percent of the electorate and Obama carried more than two-thirds of their voters, raising concerns among Republicans about their ability to appeal to the increasingly powerful voting bloc.

Overhauling immigration laws is also a top priority for the fast-growing number of Asians in the U.S., who also voted overwhelmingly for Obama but make up a far smaller percentage of the electorate — 3 percent, according to exit polls from the November election.

Among the 14 participants in the meeting were representatives of the Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Mormon faiths.