‘BEGIN’ IMMIGRATION REFORM ‘THIS YEAR’…. President Obama hosted a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House late yesterday, and spoke for about 10 minutes on issues related to the Hispanic-American communities. He took note of the NBA’s “Los Suns,” for example, and was critical of the Arizona immigration measure.

Of particular interest, though, were the president’s remarks about the immigration reform effort, and when we can expect to see progress.

“So I want to say it again, just in case anybody is confused. The way to fix our broken immigration system is through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. That means responsibility from government to secure our borders, something we have done and will continue to do. It means responsibility from businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers — they’ve got to be held accountable. It means responsibility from people who are living here illegally. They’ve got to admit that they broke the law, and pay taxes, and pay a penalty, and learn English, and get right before the law — and then get in line and earn their citizenship.

“Comprehensive reform — that’s how we’re going to solve this problem. And I know there’s been some commentary over the last week since I talked about this difficult issue: ‘Well, is this politically smart to do?’ ‘Can you get Republican votes?’ Look, of course, it’s going to be tough. That’s the truth. Anybody who tells you it’s going to be easy or I can wave a magic wand and make it happen hasn’t been paying attention how this town works.

“We need bipartisan support. But it can be done. And it needs to be done. So I was pleased to see a strong proposal for comprehensive reform presented in the Senate last week — and I was pleased that it was based on a bipartisan framework. I want to begin work this year, and I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me — because we’ve got to stay true to who we are, a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”

The “just in case anybody is confused” line is almost certainly in reference to criticism the White House received last week, when the president told reporters that “there may not be an appetite” to pass immigration reform this year. The remarks were widely interpreted as Obama backing off on the issue, though in context, the president did emphasize his belief that there’s a pressing need to get reform done quickly.

With that in mind, Obama offered a more encouraging message yesterday, though it was cased in realistic expectations — the president wants to “begin” the work of overhauling existing laws “this year.”

Though, with unanimous Republican opposition, the work may start this year, but finish at some point in the future.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.