President Barack Obama says he wants to start work on comprehensive immigration reform this year.

This is the first time the President has gone as far as saying he wants work to begin sooner rather than later.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform welcomed the president's statement as long overdue and welcome.

ILIR President Ciaran Staunton said he was heartened by Obama's support.

"Our communities are full of two-tier residents," he said. "The established Irish Americans were able to come here legally while the newer ones have no choice but to be illegal because there is no legal way to come here."

Obama said much the same thing at a ceremony at the White House to mark Cinco de Mayo.

"Make no mistake, our immigration system is broken. And after so many years in which Washington has failed to meet its responsibilities, Americans are right to be frustrated, including folks along border states," he said.

"The way to fix our broken immigration system is through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform," he said.

"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," he said.

Staunton said his group has already ramped up efforts to engage Republican support.

"We have already convened a national group which will start outreach as a matter of urgency to Senators in key states," he said.

"We have a strong core group who are helping us get the message out that immigration is an Irish issue and we need help."

Staunton's group is running a fundraiser in New York to help pay for the outreach effort.

"Working for our community is worth every penny," he said, "and I don't want us to lose ground be case we couldn't afford to help delegates travel to Washington to meet their Senators.