This week, President Obama is scheduled to meet with two key congressional players in the movement for immigration reform—Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC)—who are working together behind the scenes to draft a bipartisan immigration bill. The President is expected to ask Sens. Graham and Schumer to produce a reform bill blueprint that “could be turned into legislative language.” While some will interpret this week’s meeting as another positive signal from the White House and others as a “last-ditch effort in an election year,” the White House affirms that the President is still committed to reforming our immigration system.

According to the L.A. Times, White House spokesperson Nick Shapiro said:

The president is looking forward to hearing more about their efforts toward producing a bipartisan bill…The president’s commitment to fixing our broken immigration system remains unwavering.

For many advocates, the upcoming White House meeting is a welcomed signal that immigration remains a priority for the President, particularly as grassroots groups across the country vent frustrations over the continuation of Bush-era “enforcement-only” policies. Immigration advocates have been disappointed by a perceived lack of leadership on this issue on the part of the President. Advocates have also cautioned that inaction on immigration reform could cause political fallout, particularly if the growing Latino electorate decides that there has not been enough movement on immigration reform and either stays home or votes for the opposition party.

Much like stalled health care legislation, it may be easy for President Obama to blame Congress for playing politics. But even in the absence of a much needed immigration overhaul, there are things the Obama Administration could do to improve immigration policy if he were serious about fixing the system. Last week, IPC released a review of DHS under the Obama Administration which outlines a series of changes the Administration could make absent legislation.

Conventional wisdom holds that the longer it takes President Obama to pass a major piece of legislation, the more political clout he loses come mid-term election. We understand that the President is currently facing some difficult legislative hurdles with health care and the economy, but regardless, immigrant advocates, as well as Asian, Latino and immigrant voters, are going to look to hold the President accountable for his actions—or inactions—on immigration reform. Talking to Senators Schumer and Graham is a welcomed step, but now the Administration has to show some real strength by making Administrative reforms and demonstrating that it is engaging the issue in a meaningful way. Real action will go a long way toward drumming up needed support in Congress and from a constituency whose vote could make all the difference come election time.

Photo by White House.