President Barack Obama has renewed his push for comprehensive immigration reform, his third major domestic priority after health care and financial reforms, highlighting the importance of immigrants to American history and progress.
"We should make it easier for the best and the brightest to come to start businesses and develop products and create jobs. Our laws should respect families following the rules, instead of splitting them apart," Obama said.
"We need to provide farms a legal way to hire the workers they rely on, and a path for those workers to earn legal status," he said vowing to fix a system that seems "fundamentally broken."
He asserted the majority of Americans are ready to embrace reform legislation that would help resolve the status of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, including over 300,000 Indians. Indians are the second fastest growing group of illegal immigrants in the US after Mexicans.
"I believe we can put politics aside and finally have an immigration system that's accountable," Obama told an audience at Washington's American University. "I believe we can appeal not to people's fears, but to their hopes, to their highest ideals. Because that's who we are as Americans."
The president targeted Arizona's controversial new immigration law, which requires immigrants to carry alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally. It also targets businesses that hire illegal immigrant labourers or knowingly transport them.
The measure - under review by the Justice Department - has "fanned the flames of an already contentious debate," Obama said.
It puts pressure on police officers to enforce rules that are "unenforceable" while making communities less safe - in part, by making people more reluctant to report crimes.
Rounding up everyone in the country who has entered illegally would be both "logistically impossible" and "tear at the fabric of the nation," the president warned.
But at the same time, Obama suggested, it would be wrong to offer blanket amnesty for people who came into the United States unlawfully.
The president urged Congress to tackle immigration reform legislation but stressed that it would require support from both Democrats and Republicans. "That is the political and mathematical reality," he said.