On his very full plate, it was one issue that President Obama had yet to take on. Until today, that is, when he discussed immigration with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Obama supported comprehensive reform, including a possible path to citizenship for law-abiding people who entered the country illegally, along the lines of the bill that stalled in Congress in 2007. But it was not a priority issue during the campaign.
According to the White House account of the one-hour closed session, it was "a robust and strategic meeting" where Obama announced he will go to Mexico next month to meet President Calderon.
"The President discussed how the administration will work with the CHC to address immigration concerns in both the short and long term," the White House said.
With Calderon, he plans "to discuss the deep and comprehensive US-Mexico relationship, including how the United States and Mexico can work together to support Mexico’s fight against drug-related violence and work toward effective, comprehensive immigration reform. Since their meeting in January, the President has repeatedly praised President Calderon for his extraordinary work to solve these challenges, which are important to communities and families on both sides of the border."
UPDATE: "We came to the president today as allies and supporters, and in return he showed us that he remains committed to immigration reform that stabilizes our economy, secures our borders, and keeps our families together," said Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, chairman of the Hispanic caucus's immigration task force.
"The president showed the CHC that, although it is very early in his administration, he understands that for the immigrant community it’s the 11th hour, and there is no time to waste," Gutierrez said in a statement. The Latino community supported President Obama overwhelmingly in the election, and they remain energized not only by his victory but also by his message of support for comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that a plan is forthcoming, and that we will see real change this year."
The head of the National Council of La Raza said she is optimistic that immigration reform will be addressed this year.
“The leadership on immigration reform from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus should be applauded, and we appreciate the President’s continued commitment to this issue,” council president and CEO Janet Murguía said in a statement. “We are dedicated to working with the administration and leaders in the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle to make the President’s campaign promise of immigration reform a reality this year.”
“The Latino community has high expectations for our leaders on this issue. It is critical to resolve the most important civil rights issueof our time,” Murguía added. “While we agree that our priority should be fixing the nation’s economy, we also believe that we can initiate an immigration reform that will help us achieve long-term economic growth.”
According to an immigrant advocacy group in Massachusetts, Obama is to lay out his proposal in May.
"We are pleased that the President met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to reiterate his commitment to immigration reform and that he will be laying out his plan for such reform in early May," Eva A. Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said in a statement. "Creating a just and humane immigration system in this country is long overdue. For too long, families have been torn apart, workers have been forced to live in the shadows and the country has been suffering because of our broken system.
"We need a comprehensive approach that gives the hard working men and women already here an earned path to citizenship, keeps families together and provides legal avenues for future workers to seek out opportunities here and join our struggle to strengthen our economy. Especially in this time of economic crisis, we need to work together to push for immigration reform. Legalization would bring more workers into the tax system and increase tax revenue. It would enable these workers to receive the protections all workers deserve, and give immigrants the opportunity to contribute more freely to our economy through purchasing power. A workable immigration reform would contribute significantly to the long-term economic growth and stability of our country."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.