Yesterday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Obama to discuss the prospects for advancing such a reform this year. Obama had made a commitment to reforming the broken immigration system during his campaign, and has sent many signals that he remains enthusiastic about its prospects. At yesterday’s meeting, the President echoed the affirmative call for comprehensive immigration reform already made by Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Hispanic Caucus members were optimistic after the meeting. Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) stated:
“I appreciate the time President Barack Obama took to meet with us today to discuss the need for comprehensive immigration reform. His past efforts and commitment to this issue are a matter of record. Today we applaud his reaffirmation, now as President, to move forward on that commitment.”
According to Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL):
“The president said more than any of us expected him to say. He was clear, eloquent and determined in letting us know that we’re all together on the route to comprehensive immigration reform.”
Later, at a Town Hall meeting, President Obama reiterated the promise he made to the CHC:
…people who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows, because if they stay in the shadows, in the underground economy, then they are oftentimes pitted against American workers. Since they can’t join a union, they can’t complain about minimum wages, et cetera, they end up being abused, and that depresses the wages of everybody, all Americans.
Obama assured his listeners that the legalization process is “….not going to be some instant amnesty…”:
What’s going to happen is you are going to pay a significant fine. You are going to learn English. You are going to — you are going to go to the back of the line so that you don’t get ahead of somebody who was in Mexico City applying legally.,,You’ve got to earn it. But over time you give people an opportunity.
He also indicated the need for a comprehensive approach to fixing our broken immigration system:
Now, it only works though if you do all the pieces. I think the American people, they appreciate and believe in immigration. But they can’t have a situation where you just have half a million people pouring over the border without any kind of mechanism to control it. So we’ve got to deal with that at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. That’s the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take.
The President also announced that he will travel to Mexico next month to meet with President Felipe Calderon to discuss several issues, one of which is sure to be the ongoing need for immigration reform.
The President has clearly heard the voice of the American people who voted for change-including the overwhelming number of Latino and New American voters who turned out for him with the hope that he would exhibit the strong leadership and decisive action need to reform our immigration laws.
FILED UNDER: undocumented immigration