June 25th, 2009
11:15 AM ET
11 years ago

Obama set to hold twice-delayed immigration meeting

President Barack Obama is set to begin tackling the politically contentious issue of immigration Thursday.

President Barack Obama is set to begin tackling the politically contentious issue of immigration Thursday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama is set to begin tackling the politically contentious issue of immigration Thursday, hosting a bipartisan group of congressmen at the White House for what the administration is calling the "launch of a policy conversation."

The meeting, which was delayed twice as economic issues took center stage, is 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.

The meeting comes less than a week after the president reiterated his commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform that paves the way for citizenship for millions of undocumented workers.

On Friday, Obama 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.

"The American people believe in immigration, but they also believe that we can't tolerate a situation where people come to the United States in violation of the law," Obama said in an address to the eighth annual National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

"Nor can we tolerate employers who exploit undocumented workers in order to bring down wages," he added.

While immigration reform is a top priority for the president's first term, the nation's continuing economic woes top his list of domestic priorities.

"The president has consistently said that he wants to start the (immigration) discussion later this year because our immigration system is broken," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said earlier this year. "But the economy comes first."

In downplaying the immigration issue, the White House may also be acknowledging the political complexity associated with the issue. Former President George W. Bush made comprehensive immigration reform a priority in his second term, but failed to win congressional approval.

Similarly, the Obama White House may not yet have the support it needs in Congress to pass a comprehensive reform measure.

"Currently, where we sit, the math makes that more difficult than the discussion," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.

Several pro-immigration reform groups are nevertheless pushing the administration to make a stronger effort this year, in part because next year's mid-term elections could make major reform even more difficult.

Politically, Obama has been walking a fine line, trying to appease pro-amnesty Hispanic groups who backed him in the election while at the same time trying to win over broader public and congressional opinion by taking a tougher stance on enforcement.

Among other things, the administration earlier this year changed the focus of worksite enforcement raids away from targeting undocumented workers, and instead on employers who break immigration laws.

"The president has some time," said Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors tighter immigration restrictions.

"I can't guess if he has six months or a year where he can keep kicking the can down the road before he pays a political price from one side or the another. But at some point his time runs out."

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

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Obama 2.0

    If this admin does not pass a public option that 70% of Americans mandate. then they are toast and the GOP is in even deeper doodoo.

    June 25, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. Michael I Hastings Minnesota

    Any Politician granting amnesty will fore ever lose my vote

    June 25, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. Skip, a black man

    Well lets send them all home, with all my fellow brothers and sisters who think the U.S. is such a bad place to live....all 95% of you!

    June 25, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. Bruce

    Yeah, go ahead and not put in my previous comments CNN. Just goes to show you that you truly are the Communist News Network.

    June 25, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  5. Bob in Pa

    Sorry you seem to have had to deal with difficulties in becoming a citizen, but now you want a shortcut ?

    June 25, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. Paul Jenkins

    Immigration Reform is just another word for amnesty. And, by the way, let's add another several million people that we have to fund for healthcare. Both the Democratic and Republican Party will be shocked one day when these illegals they are pandering to form their own political party and put them both out of business.

    June 25, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Obama Victim

    Obozo will pander to the hispanics.............spend a bunch of our money, and pick up even more fools who will vote dumocrap........what a country

    June 25, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. totally neutral

    Stealing Jobs, Free Health Care, Drain on our tax money.
    Yadda Yadda Yadda.
    So show me some real unbiased statistics. Not just exaggerated and outright false claims. Half of what is out there says the illegal hispanic population costs money, the other half says they save us money.
    Everything seems to depend on who's ox is getting gored.
    The Jobs they are 'stealing' are jobs you WON"T do, at any price.
    If you want to place blame on low wages and a smaller job market, place it on outsourcing and giving work visas to LEGAL immigrants who get them ONLY because they can and will do the high tech work for peanuts.
    Thanksgiving is a celebration of history's greatest failed immigration policy.

    June 25, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Laura, Boston MA

    If illegals were not allowed to:

    1) Take Jobs that unemployed American Citizens and Legal Immigrants could do

    2) Fill up the emergency rooms of our hospitals

    3) Fill up our classrooms

    4) Live in apartments in cities where it is impossible to find a decent one (i.e. Boston, San Fran)

    If just these 4 things were taken away from someone here illegally than the economy would be in better shape. Our children would have better educations necessary to compete in the world. People who belong here wouldn't be paying for services for those whose own country won't pay for.

    June 25, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  10. Proud Member..Party of No

    So, in other words Barry, you mean "amnesty". Good idea since illegal immigrants in this country cost far, far more each year than the Iraq war costs us and the dumbocrats are always blathering on about that cost. Barry Hussein's "Destruction of America" tour continues.

    June 25, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. Alfred E. Neumann

    First up for discussion – deportation of his aunt who is in this country illegally!

    June 25, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Andrew

    Any reform that gets passed needs to include a provision that will get all of the illegal immigrants out of California. Their suckling on the social services is running this state into the ground financially.

    June 25, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Enough

    Polls show Americans do NOT support amnesty!! Yeah, like common sense or our opinion matters. Nancy Pelosi out there apologizing that she can't speak spanish to them. Democrats want to give them the world for their vote, they will keep on raising the taxes on the working class to fund everything. The middle class will soon become poverty level, we cannot afford this. Obama and his policies are quickly bankrupting this country. They are pushing everything through as fast as they can before they get booted out of office. Someone please take the checkbook out of the Democrats hands...........and soon!!

    June 25, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  14. ray ray

    OBAMA SAYS – 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.


    You don't have to leave the country...stay here, work, continue abusing our healthcare system, but EVENTUALLY we want you to go through citizenship classes.

    And just WAIT until we pass Universal Healthcare!!!!

    June 25, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. Wincel

    There are two ways to solve the illegal immigrant problem in America:

    1. Put people who hire illegals in JAIL.

    2. Require Americans on public assistance to take those "jobs Americans won't do". If the wages for those jobs don't match what the individual was getting on public assistance, then give them something to match the difference so they are not losing money by going to work.

    June 25, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. Broke in CA

    We are bankrupt in California and our taxes have all been raised, but there is never a mention of cutting benefits to illegals. Politicians need to get serious and address the problem, not rape my pockets looking for a few more cents to take.

    June 25, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. The black spider

    If it's sending illegal immigrants back home away from their american chlidren or the state taking care of the children of this illegals you don't care spending a Trillion doing that but if it's to reform health care to advantage yourself you cry like a baby and worry about the deficit and would like to keep the statut quo.
    This shows a lot about the small minded people you are. You are failling to use your brain.

    June 25, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
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