President Barack Obama met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at the White House on Tuesday for the third time in the last several weeks to discuss pushing immigration reform in Congress.
“He is committed and will be leaning into this issue in a very serious and very vigorous way. We are upping the intensity on this issue, and hopefully the information and facts about this issue will compel people to act,” Melody Barnes, Obama’s top domestic policy adviser, said.
Hoping to appease both sides of the immigration issue and garner bi-partisan support in Congress, Obama’s plan calls for stronger enforcement of current immigration laws, but also would allow for the creation of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
At Tuesday’s meeting, however, lawmakers urged Obama to use his power to halt the deportations or grant temporary citizenship to undocumented students if they have lived in the U.S. for five years and do not have a criminal record.
“The meeting was not about granting legal status to the 12 million or so undocumented immigrants, but rather how to prioritize deporting drug dealers and gangsters, but not to deport DREAM Act students and the families of U.S. citizens,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), a staunch advocate of immigration reform and one of the most vocal members of Congress on the issue.
With Republicans in control of the House now, chances are slim that any immigration legislation would pass, but with the issue being a top priority for Hispanics, which the Census showed accounted for more than half of the nation’s population growth in the last decade, the issue isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
The president’s handling of the issue going into the 2012 election season is considered key in his campaign to win over Hispanic voters. As a voting bloc, Hispanics played a pivotal role in handing over victories to Democrats in last year’s mid-term elections.
“This is in fact a problem that Congress is going to have to step up to the table and work with us to get done and get done on a bipartisan basis,” Barnes said.