June 25th, 2009
04:52 PM ET
14 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. Leah

    USA once belonged to "Native American"
    Juan Ponce de León from Spain was first to step on Florida
    The first settler of USA came from England
    So technically speaking, the majority of white people who call USA their land once had ancestor that were immigrants.
    I personally think that by improving an immigration law and allow those who are already in USA applied for citizen, paid their penalty so that they can pay taxes and help built USA, is make more sense that continue to have them as illegal working and sending money back to their homeland.
    And for those who think that illegal immigrants steeling from you, keep in mind that your ancestor once stole this land from "Native Americans"

    June 25, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. C Williams

    Put an end to citizenship by birthright...it is a huge incentive to sneak in cheat and thereby steal US citizen status forever for the children of all illegals.

    June 25, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  3. IndepndentAmerican

    I do not know one American, personally, who will go to California's fields to pick vegetables in the hot sun! Nor do I know one who is unemployed who will go to the local hotel to clean toilets!

    We need a just and fair immigration system, one that allows workers to come in legally and go home at the end of the growing season.

    What about the children of immigrant who are American citizens? Do you want to deport them too?

    How much money will it take to round up and deport millions of undocumented immigrants?

    June 25, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. mandingo

    Oh crap here we go with this topic again.....get it done with

    June 25, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. Al, CA

    Good to have a thoughtful president! The more things Obama will have time to deal with the better for all of us.

    June 25, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  6. LacrosseMom

    ********************PLease Post CNN***********************************

    The GOPers are posting fast and furious. We need a JUST immigration system, since we are ..........a Christian Nation........... right???

    We can't round up and deport millions! We can't have their American children abandoned! That would be inhumane!

    Seems that CNN does not like my reference to Jesus, in the last few comments I have posted....... or attempted to post. But here it goes......

    The far-right likes to claim it is Christian but there is nothing Christian about the far-right comments posted here!

    Jesus said, "whatsoever you do to the least of these you do unto me."

    We need fairness, not Nazi tactics!

    June 25, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. Robin

    @IndepndentAmerican June 25th, 2009 5:49 pm ET

    How much money will it take to round up and deport millions of undocumented immigrants?


    Make them cover the cost for a return trip home. We are the only country in the world that rewards people that enter it illegally.

    June 25, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  8. free labor

    Lets put republicans in labor camps and use them to pick produce.

    June 25, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  9. lynn in NM

    I guess Iran is too big an issue for him right now. Let's not forget North Korea either. He's not doing well in the public image with them, so let's try something new.

    June 25, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  10. Willy Brown

    Wonder Obama has over reached too.

    June 25, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  11. Chris

    At one time there was NOT ONE person in this part of the world. How can anyone post that Native Americans or anyone else can say they had control over this whole great country? Does anyone on here know that the lands were all connected years ago? Does anyone on here know that the world is continually evolving? We have laws in place and really folks, all that most sensible people are asking is that EVERYONE coming here now follow the same laws. No special allowances for law breakers, no special shortcuts around the immigration laws that our government have in place. Why can't people who have come here illegally understand that simple procedure?

    June 25, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  12. Glenn

    Your Tax dollars at work.

    See below article.

    June 25, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  13. Peter

    What difference does it make? The country sends most of its jobs overseas anyway.

    Have you ever tried to understand a Dell tech support representative? If you speak the native dialect in India, you are good-to-go. If you speak only English, like most people buying Dell Products, you will never be able to understand one word they're saying.

    June 25, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  14. m smith

    Well all the family oriented christians' have spoken so now just go back and do what you do best commit adultry ,treat gays as second class citizens ,call everyone who dosen't agree with you a socialist unpatriotic liberal. Find a country to invade and sit around and listen to Rush. The president should try deporting these nuts

    June 25, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  15. lkb

    You are right...no american will work the fields in California. Americans would rather collect welfare, take government handouts and ask for free medical care than do an honest days work that they feel demeaning. Why do you think Obama won the election?
    Laws are in place to legally enter this country, It is about time we enforce those laws.

    June 25, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  16. Tatianna

    OK, we can now determine scientifically and without any doubt that Obama is naive and in way over his head. His plans are unstainable and has no idea what he is doing. Hes the poster child for the worst case scenarios. Destroying the capitalist economy, putting America in massive debt for generations, and obliterating our national security and standing in the world. Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived. Except now it is a nation, not one city, in trouble. Surely this president has other motives, but even if his intentions are good, we all know the substance of the pavement on the road to perdition.

    June 25, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
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