Washington, Feb 19 (IANS) As President Barack Obama's leaked plan to put America's 11 million illegal immigrants, including some 250,000 Indians, on a path to citizenship, generated a storm, White House insisted it was just a "backup plan."
"The administration will be ready to move forward in the event the bipartisan process gets bogged down and is not able to produce a bill," a White House official was quoted as saying by NBC News. "But our focus remains on supporting the congressional process."
But some media pundits suggested that it was a "decoy" designed to pressure Republicans to get Obama what he wanted, while others said it would complicate the job of the "Gang of Eight" - four Democrat and four Republican senators - to work out a bipartisan deal.
The Obama plan calls for an eight-year path to permanent residency for undocumented immigrants who would face a criminal background check and have to pay back taxes, learn English and get a new "lawful prospective immigrant" visa, according to a draft obtained by USA Today.
In Republicans' "shock and outrage" over Obama's leaked "backup plan", Washington Post's Eugene Robinson saw the prospects of a deal brightening.
"In dysfunctional Washington, this means that prospects for comprehensive reform - including what amounts to an amnesty for the undocumented - are getting brighter," he wrote.
"If the president really wants immigration reform to pass, one of the most helpful things he could do is put out his own plan as a decoy, to draw Republican fire, while the Senate works toward bipartisan consensus," Robinson wrote suggesting it "looks suspiciously like what just happened."
The Boston Herald seemed to agree in saying Obama had "upped the ante on the immigration reform showdown with Republicans".
The Herald called it a "move hailed by political pundits and reform advocates as a savvy manoeuvre to keep the backing of crucial Latino voters."
But the Voice of America was of the view that the leaked White House proposal complicates immigration reform effort.
"Harsh words in Washington are revealing the tough political challenge when it comes to reforming America's immigration system," it said in a commentary suggesting "friction over the White House draft bill shows that change is far from assured."
The leaked "bill may have disrupted delicate, closed-door negotiations between Democratic and Republican lawmakers attempting to craft comprehensive bipartisan legislation," it said.
CNN called the immigration debate as "high-stakes political poker" with former Florida Republican House member Connie Mack suggesting the leak of Obama's plan "plays into the fears" of Republicans that the president prefers keeping the issue alive for political advantage."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)