June 25th, 2009
04:52 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama holds twice-delayed immigration meeting

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama began tackling the contentious issue of immigration reform Thursday, hosting a bipartisan group of congressmen at the White House for what the administration called the "launch of a policy conversation."

The meeting, which was delayed twice as economic issues took center stage, was designed to be an "honest discussion of issues where we can identify areas of agreement, and areas where we still have work to do," according to the White House.

"I'm confident that if we enter into this (process) with the notion that this is a nation of laws that have to be observed and this is a nation of immigrants, then we're going to create a stronger nation for our children and our grandchildren," Obama said.

The president conceded, however, that "comprehensive immigration reform is difficult. We know it's a sensitive and politically volatile issue."

The meeting was short on specifics, but long on promises of cooperation across party lines. During the meeting, Obama sat next to his 2008 general election opponent, Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain.

The president said he wanted to "commend" McCain, who "has already paid a significant political cost for doing the right thing" on immigration.

McCain has been severely criticized by conservative Republicans for promoting a comprehensive immigration solution that includes a path to citizenship for the country's estimated 12 million undocumented workers.

Obama said the question of how to deal with those workers will have to be dealt with in a "practical, common-sense way."

The public is "ready for us to do so, but it's going to require some heavy lifting," Obama warned. "It's going to require a victory of practicality ... over short-term politics."

The meeting came less than a week after the president told a Hispanic audience that the "fair, practical and promising way forward" is to strengthen border security, clarify the status of those who are here illegally, and require illegal immigrants to pay a penalty and taxes.

He also said undocumented workers should learn English and "go to the back of the line behind those who played by rules" in terms of applying for citizenship.

–CNN's Dan Lothian and Lisa Sylvester contributed to this report

Filed under: Immigration • President Obama
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Zero.

    Not do more! That is not John McCain. It is about "Clarification"...
    Stop diggin in Mud Omama.... Clarify where you stand with iran..

    June 25, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. ib

    What else will this poor excuse for a president come up with to spend money on that we don't have. Obama is pathetic and worse.

    June 25, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. Bob in Pa

    Its real simple – Close the Borders and start deportation.

    June 25, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  4. samuel

    Do not allow illegals here and send home all violators. Fill their jobs with unemployed Americans and eliminate Spanish from recorded telephone menus. And for those of you who are legal, learn English or go back to Mexico. These people are a drain on our healthcare system and our legal system. Its time to deal with these criminals once and for all. Come here legally or dont come period!

    June 25, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. Abby

    God knows the President is working 24/7! What a change! God bless him and our country! Thank you for working so hard sir!

    And all the negative commenters here, there is nothing you can do to change the fact that he’s the president of the US, HAHHAHA

    June 25, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  6. mmg

    Stop already with all this spending!!!! Get the Illegals out of here and that is it!!! Here goes the Great Obama again... another 3 day crisis !!! Just once I wish he would fix ONE ISSUE!!!

    June 25, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  7. Dave C - NJ

    You fools don't get it. The illegals will never stop sneaking in as long as Americans are hiring them.

    They aren't "taking American jobs" ...they are being GIVEN American jobs by Americans. Did you "take" your job? Nope...it was given to you.

    Stop hiring them and they will stop coming.

    June 25, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. enough

    Mandate E-Verify, they will self deport.

    They can leave the same way they came.

    June 25, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. B Powell

    I don't believe ANYTHING Obama says. He is out to destroy the American way of life and tax us into a third world status.
    To all the people who voted for this imposter of a president–I hope you will be happy with socialized medicine; the government owning
    everything and you having to stick your hand out for your daily meals.
    This "man" is dangerous!!!

    June 25, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  10. wm weeks

    Abby, yes there is, its called an "election".

    June 25, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  11. american

    from ignorant people like these no better comment is expected,go back to ur roots and tell me how pure of an american u guys are with ur stupid comments,that u dont even know the basics of what u claim to be.

    June 25, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. B.H.

    Its about common sense and following THE LAWS already on the books!

    June 25, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. Jeff

    This is great, time to move forward and great to see that McCain was at the meeting. Our country will benefit tremendously by addressing this problem. Let's pass this bill!!!!!!

    June 25, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  14. Scott, Tucson

    The president said he wanted to "commend" McCain, who "has already paid a significant political cost for doing the right thing" on immigration.

    Yeah it was an Amnesty plan and I guess the politicians have a short memory of the reaction they got from the people of this nation.

    June 25, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  15. phoenix86

    After 6 months of Obama, one thing is patently obvious. Sarah Palin would be a much better president than Obama.

    June 25, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. Me in Big D

    @Abby – are you joking??? And, yes, there is something that can be done to change him as president – vote against him in 2012! He's really working hard, spending our money. Apparently, you are one of many of the non-taxpaying, "entitlement" crowd.

    June 25, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  17. makesUwonder

    Bob in Pa June 25th, 2009 5:15 pm ET

    Its real simple – Close the Borders and start deportation.

    Yes, please close the borders. We just had another Houston Police Officer killed by an illegal immigrant. Officer Canales was shot in the back by this illegal invader. Officer Canales leaves a wife and two children. Approx. two months ago we had another officer shot in the face by an illegal invader. We had a firefighter hit by a DWI illegal invader and lost both legs. Could I give you more stories, yes, but I won't. Close the borders and start the deportation process now. If you are here and your legal I say welcome, if not, I say leave.
    Wonder how many will post I'm a "racist"?

    June 25, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. Joe

    if you want to send all illegal immigrants back, better back date it to 1492. seems to me that's when the problem started. English was an alien language to these shores

    June 25, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  19. gt

    these are obamas new voters ,,, there here to stay,,,,,get use to it...hola ,,,,

    June 25, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. phoenix86


    Don't worry about illegal aliens here. Once cap & trade becomes law, it is estimated that the US will lose between 1 to 2 million jobs per year. In a few years, US citizens will be the illegal aliens.

    June 25, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. Barryyy

    Cnn post this!
    This stupid propaganda started by the Bush administration and continued by this administration: we don't need to pass immigration reform, in fact it is not needed at all none whatsoever; tell me why it's needed. What we need to do is first ensure all Americans have jobs, how about Americans for American jobs? By the way the unemployment rate, even in November 2008, was 5% under Bush and now it's at 10% and I thought this guy was supposed to fix the economy!? What happened? And now he wants to make more Americans lose their jobs by passing "illegal immigration reform"? Wake up you idiots, this will be the nail on his presidency coffin mark my words! Forget about 4 years he'll be gone in 2!

    June 25, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. Dave C - NJ

    Every conservative answers with "Obama is destroying our way of life" although they can't cite one example.... or the new classic "Obama is a socialist."

    I love how they try to stick the socialist tag on Obama when we have less than 2% of US business with govt stakeholders.

    That combined with the fact that the "capitalists" on Wall Street starting this whole thing off with BEGGING for bailout money. So are the businesses that asked for money socialists now too?

    You clowns need to look up the term in the dictionary.

    It won't work, guys. Grow up.

    June 25, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. bianca

    immigrants are a benefit to the states.

    June 25, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. Dave C - NJ

    I love the guy who said "stop the spending" and "get the illegals out of here."

    So it would be free to deport 10 million people? lol

    June 25, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  25. Enough

    14.5 Million unemployed US citizens, our taxes paying unemployment benefits,
    7+Million illegals have our jobs. The other millions are soaking up our benefits meant for our poor!

    Cheap labor is not cheap.

    What are they drinking.
    Call your Congress now. Mandate E-Verify, they will self deport.

    June 25, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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