Washington (CNN) – Several Congressional Hispanic leaders met with President Obama Tuesday to ask for his help in building support for a bill, known as the DREAM Act, which would award citizenship to illegal immigrants who have gone to college or served in the military.
Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform believe the lame duck session may the best opportunity to pass one concrete immigration reform measure before Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January.
The President sat down with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) and Nydia Velazquez (D-New Jersey) to discuss the issue.
After the meeting, Gutierrez told reporters that Mr. Obama committed to make phone calls to members to push for comprehensive reform, but will ask for support on the DREAM measure "as down payment."
In a statement, Gutierrez said the DREAM Act is "the only piece of immigration reform legislation that can get broad support from Democrats and has attracted significant Republican support in the recent past."
The White House said in a statement following the meeting, "The President and the CHC (Congressional Hispanic Caucus) leaders believe that, before adjourning, Congress should approve the DREAM Act. This legislation has traditionally enjoyed support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and would give young people who were brought as minors to the United States by their parents the opportunity to earn their citizenship by pursuing a college degree or through military service."
Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) have indicated they hope to bring the bill to the floor during this lame duck session.
"He (Reid) still hopes to bring it to the floor for a vote. We are still discussing how to proceed," Reid spokesman Jim Manley told CNN.
Guiterrez said Tuesday's meeting was aimed at coordinating efforts to help push the bill.
"When I met with the President today, I told him that we need him to join us in fighting for the DREAM Act. I told the President we need him now and that we cannot waste another day and must push for a DREAM Act vote in the House and Senate during the lame duck. It is not time to hesitate or be unclear about what we are fighting for. We need the DREAM Act," Gutierrez said in his statement.
"I see it as a down payment on comprehensive reform and we will continue working towards comprehensive immigration reform today, tomorrow, and until it passes. But I will not pass up the chance to save a million or more children who grew up in the U.S., who know no other country, and who are threatened with deportation unless we act."
Mr. Obama, according to the White House, asked the members he met with to help restore a bipartisan coalition that would back comprehensive reform.
"The President repeated his hope that, with the election season's pressures past, Congressional Republicans would work with their Democratic colleagues not only to strengthen security at the nation's borders, but also to restore responsibility and accountability to what everyone agrees is a broken immigration system," the White House said in the statement. "The President reiterated his strong support for bipartisan Congressional action on immigration reform at the earliest opportunity, noting that the American people expect both parties to work together to tackle the challenges confronting our nation."
Gutierrez and the others who met with the President also hope to see major reform, but, Gutierrez said, Democrats should take advantage of the opportunity now in the lame duck to get this targeted measure through Congress.
He dismissed the argument from some advocates that doing something incremental will hurt chances to push a more comprehensive bill in the future.
"This is what is real, what is possible – should we jeopardize the possibility to get two million young men and women a pathway to legalization because we want more? We told him that it is absolutely the incorrect way to approach this," he said.
Hispanics are a key constituency for Democrats, and immigration reform is an important priority for that constituency. The failure to achieve some type of immigration overhaul may have hurt the Democrats in the 2010 election, since the party controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. According to a CNN exit poll, Democratic congressional candidates received the lowest amount of votes from Hispanics since the 1998 election.
However, in several states with sizeable Hispanic populations, those voters are credited with making the difference in some key Democratic Senate races by propelling Reid (Nevada), Barbara Boxer (California) and Michael Bennet (Colorado) to victory. Guiterrez credits those candidate's positions on immigration reform with helping them garner the Hispanic vote.
The immigration push comes one day after the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that illegal immigrant students who attended public high schools are eligible to receive in-state tuition rates at California public universities and colleges - a move which would save the students a significant amount of money. California is one of a number of states which allow such undocumented students to receive cheaper tuition. Opponents who are fighting the state argue that the ruling wrongly rewards illegal immigrants. State officials have countered that they are not violating federal law because they can give the benefit to those who attended state high schools for at least 3 years, regardless of the students' immigration status.
– CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.
Follow Kevin Bohn on Twitter @KevinBohnCNN
Heck yes grant them legal citizenship. Many of these people have done way more for America (served in the real military, gone to college, worked to make the coutry better for everyone) than the pathetic Tea Baggers that hate them.
LAST CHANCE TO STOP ANOTHER AMNESTY–THE DREAM ACT
As for the California high Court allowing illegal immigrants the special privilege of paying in-state tuition. Out-of-State American students who pay full tuition should boycott any College or University that accepts this outrageous ruling and head for an education in Arizona or other reputable institution, that isn't governed by Liberal doctrines? No wonder California is up to its neck in red ink, as the Sacramento assembly is full of Liberal progressives who are brain dead, to the costs added to the growing list of tax burdens on Californians. Millions of American citizens and legal residents cannot pay their bills, have homes in foreclosure or cannot feed their family. Yet the illegal alien invasion has not been stopped, by any administration.
Second to the taxpayers spending issue of welfare for illegal aliens and instant citizenship to babies of foreign nationals that intentionally break our sovereign laws, is the repressive Revenue taxing chaos. I heard Ron Wyden, a Democrat on C-Span lame Duck session of Congress on how to overhaul the tax code for individuals and corporations; making it simpler and to lower the rates but cover more income. It’s logical that jobs wouldn't be spirited overseas if the tax code was fair to everybody, and not an easy mark for the special interest groups to corrupt our politicians by keeping loopholes open for the wealthy. Wyden’s' main emphasis is imposing three tax rates – 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent with a limited number of deductions. On mortgages, for example, they would remove the deduction for second homes and allow only the first $500,000 of a mortgage to get a tax break.
Our country is in financial turmoil, because of the huge "tax and spend" Liberal movement of telling the people, we are here to subsidize your every need, as long as you vote for us; Illegal or not? Yes! It’s the illegal immigration issue that has finally become highlighted and emanating as public anger and a growing concern that the government failure to reduce it impact; that a large group of politicians, governors, judges are catering to these people, rather than the majority of the population. It’s another hundred billion dollar deficit that should be stopped immediately and foreign nationals grandfathered out of the country using enforcement of tools like E-Verify, newly customized. Costly yes! But in the long run it will save us trillions of dollars in cash payments and public services that are strained. Prior to inception of the entitlement system in America, there was little attraction for illegal workers and their families. Today–Poverty is threatening America’s stability, that in these economic times, we cannot afford our own families needs; yet we are given taxpayers money to promote good will in other countries.
Nowadays people who are desperate and penniless are pouring across our leaky border, or on one-way-tickets jet liners to this sovereign country. Illegal aliens already know with fraudulent ID they can access our welfare and social services before they even arrive. Europe has already overrun with economic nationals, whose main objective is to collect welfare or free health care treatments. If we enforce our immigration laws, we can cut the US deficit at the federal and even State levels. We should listen to the insight of prominent non-profit organizations as the Heritage Foundation, which claims another Amnesty such as the Dream Act, will further cripple our national deficit. Hundreds of thousands of students as green card holders can sponsor their immediate family. Those newly sponsored once processed, can bring in their family and the chain of immigrants continuous.on and on...? Robert Rector of the Heritage has determined that this Dream Act Amnesty, along with the expenditures of Chain migration will increase our debt by another 2.6 Trillion dollars.
Outside of this another 113 billion dollars is calculable by illegal alien families yearly, through instant citizenship through the 14th Amendment for babies. Much of this money is accountable, by funding to Sanctuary Cities; haven for illegal aliens, gangs and other criminal elements. Taxpayer money should not be giving federal funds to places of so-called Sanctuary Cities and even States, such as California as this is a travesty to our immigration laws. Not fully understanding the tax laws myself, accept paying my families fair share, but realize that the Autistic code has thousands of loopholes for the well-to-do, but gives no-quarter to the general public who end up being audited. Of course simplifying the tax code would mean unemployment. Google the truth that the Liberal press deny or lie about at NumbersUSA and conclude this battle to stop any form of Amnesty, by contacting your Senate or Representative at (202)224-3121 today.
Help, I don't understand this "Dream Act." Maybe it is just that. A dream. I know people who have advanced degrees from other countries who are cleaning houses, for years now. Actually, I know American citizens born and educated here, with advanced degrees, who are waiting tables. WHY should we give citizenship to anyone who does not follow the "legal" path to citizenship. Will they get fabulous jobs? Probably not. Will they get jobs and contribute to society, because they serve in the military? It is questionable. We are already indebted to American veterans who come home to joblessness, and despair. Some one PLEASE tell me how this country will benefit by this so called "Dream Act?" May we first allow American citizens to have a chance at the American dream before we superficially pass some insane entitlement to people who may or may not ever become contributing members of American society.
This is yet another reason so many Democrats were voted out and why Obama will be, also, hopefully. Regardless of what illegal immigrants do/did after they arrived in this country, THEY STILL BROKE THE LAW!!!!!! They should NOT be rewarded with citizenship. They were PAID for their military service and they were PRIVILEGED to attend our colleges. Now that they received benefits from this country they should be required to go through the legal process if they want to become citizens. Man! Is this too hard for Obama to understand????
Im glad that President Obama is pushing for this.
Rather have them studying in a college than selling drugs on the street.
Thank you Mr. President for having the courage to support the dream act! Don't punish kids for something their parents did. It's not their fault. We support Obama and the Dream Act!
We can throw out 12 million people, but we can't give them all amnesty. So we need a centrist option. We need to secure and lock down the boarder by building a fence and placing the national guard on the boarder. The Dream Act is not a bad idea mainly because it isn't just handing illegal minors citizenship.
The Democrats JUST DONT GET IT !!!! How many bills do they have too force thru that are against what the majority of AMERICANS want? Going against the Majority of Americans, Its the New Democratic way since most of the moderates in that party are gone.
We need to do everything we can to stop this piece of dangerous legislation. It is not right to give illegal immigrants that break the law the right to get a education and citizenship. What we should be doing is shutting the borders down, put up an iron curtain, complete with guard towers, razor wire, minefields and armed personal. Anyone caught trying to get into this country should be tared and feathered and ran back across the border where they belong.
Somehow we knew the progressive liberals would come up with some way to put in place backdoor AMNESTY. If this gimmick doesn't work then Obama will use executive order I guess. And we used to shake our head at "slick willy".
This is a sneaky attempt at amnesty, welfare, health care, and financial aid for college for all illegal aliens present in the US. The requirements for the Dream Act are too lax making some 30 million illegals either directly or indirectly eligible through family sponsorship. This bill will cost 2.6 trillion dollars and yet Obama says we do not have enough money for social security COLAs or other things US citizens have earned.
Obama wants US citizens to pay huge costs so that he can recruit new democratic voters. This act of desparation cannot succeed because even if it were to pass, the increase in unemployment to 20 – 30% (based on 30 – 45 million unemployed) would ensure that nearly no one would vote for Obama.
Stop making everyone upset, Mr. Obama. You have no right to spend money that is not there or to give jobs that American citizens need to foreign invaders.
It's been a "dream" of Mexico to annex California, Obama ought to just hand over the keys to the state to our southern friends. Moonbeam probably wouldn't mind being an Ambassador to the U.S. instead of Govenor.
nonononono everyone does not agree that our immigration laws are broken we have fine immigration laws but our stupid government is not enforcing them and the ileagle invaders are nothing more then parasites that take advantage of our country we have great laws we dont have to sped a dime deporting anyone all we have to do is enforce our laws and the ileagle invaders will leave dont admit any child to school with out a birth certificate dont treat any body at the emergency room without proper id any business employing any ileagle invader will be put in jail simple no more anchor babies simple laws will save the american people billions of dollars and putting our kids first will be improve their education no more holding our kids back while the eagles kids learn how to speak English and no more press 2 to speak English every real american want this they dont want comprehensive immigration reform this is a big lie we want enforcement and we want it now if the dream act gos Thur their will be such outrage at the politicians that continue to ignore the american people we are fed up and want our country back now
No disrespect Mr. President, but dream on pal.
The only right we should give to illegals is not killing them like some countries do. Why would we cater to needs of someone who is here and doesn't take the proper steps to do things the correct way? Deport all illegals and make them come back the correct way!
Thank you Mr. President! We need to pass the Dream Act NOW! Not only for those living in the shadows, but for the good of this country.
oh wow and then the kid can sponsor his own illegal parents and they can get amnesty. Brilliant.
Up until recently, I too was against any form of giving illegals a road to citizenship, but now I see a different picture and I hope President Obama will stand tall on their behalf with a start by pushing the "Dream Act". Most people, not all, but most come to our country seeking a better life. To all you Christian U.S.citizens that talk about love and understanding, you really need to stop talking out of both sides of your mouth. Have illegals come here and placed a burden on our societies, yes they have, but what other choice do they have? If you were in their place, what would you do? If you try to say that you would get in line and wait for 10 years like your ancestors, well I guess I'll just have say you are full of it.
You know hat I think would be a great idea? Every American should sponsor one Mexican or Central American family and rid ourselves of this constant bickering and bigotry. Just a thought...
Something needs to happen. Dream act or anything more. It should all be on the floor for a vote this lame duck session.
Come on Pr. Obama, you can make it happen, and republicans....all of them, better remember that 2012 is just as important for votes.
isn't Nydia Velazquez a congress woman from New York ?
Why? How can an "illegal" serve in the military? Did the "illegals" pay in state or out of state tuition? Ha. They can ago back to their home country and apply like everyone else. I would be in favor of giving them preferential treatment, as long as they agree to plead guilty too immigration charges and have a criminal record.
It doesn't have a prayer of passing even in a lame duck session.
They will have a big grandstanding vote to try and make a point knowing they don't have the votes.
Wow – I've been saying this for the past several weeks... Pass the DREAM ACT; pass DADT and raise the threshold from $250,000 and END tax cuts OVER that threshold and EXTEND the tax cuts UNDER that threshold!!! So, someone is listening and I represent many other Americans who feel the same way (not Americans from the RIGHT because they have to follow Commandments in order to be a conservative).
Just do it!!! The democrats are still in control and if they STICK TOGETHER, which they are known NOT to do – we got this!!
President Obama is a very intelligent man!! He was elected to be our leader and he continues to be our leader – He should have that respect. I am N2 Moving America Forward with President Obama!!!