While President Obama has put off sweeping changes in immigration policy until probably next year -- after health care and energy -- he also pledged to start laying the groundwork.
And part of that was a private meeting today with Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and with immigrant advocates, faith leaders, labor leaders, business leaders, and law enforcement officials.
"Today's White House meeting demonstrated a genuine commitment to engage in a dialogue that will lead to a smart and workable legislative package," Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center,said in a statement afterwards. "Secretary Napolitano strongly supported the need to bring all undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, streamline naturalization procedures, improve immigration processes that allow immigrants to live and work legally in the U.S., and create smart immigration enforcement mechanisms. Both the president and Secretary Napolitano acknowledged the importance of immigration to our country as well as the need to create a sustainable legal immigration system for the 21st century. We must all remain committed to following through on the dialogue that began today."
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, added in a statement: “Today’s meeting represents a positive step in that President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform in this Congress. Secretary Napolitano also made it clear that she received our message that she has to communicate more effectively in favor of reform. But as always, the proof will be in the pudding. What we are looking for going forward is public advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform from Secretary Napolitano, a concrete proposal presented in Congress early this fall, and continued promotion of this urgent issue by the president."
Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, pushed comprehensive immigration reform, but vociferous opposition stopped the bill in 2007, and opposition also re-emerged during the GOP presidential primaries.
The issue was not highlighted during the general election campaign because both Obama and Republican John McCain agreed on the need for comprehensive legislation that includes a path to citizenship for some undocumented workers already in the United States -- but that a bill would have to wait for much better border security.
About Political Intelligence
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.