AAP staff report
Washington, D.C. (April 19, 2010) – A broad group of business, law enforcement, faith, and former and current elected leaders from across the political spectrum spoke their minds to the President on Tuesday with suggestions on how to tackle the shared challenge of fixing the nation’s broken immigration system.
According to the White House Office Press Secretary, President Barack Obama, members of his Cabinet and senior staff met in the State Dining Room with the guest with the goal of creating an immigration system which meets 21st century economic and security needs.
“Our efforts have been enormously successful, but we need comprehensive reform that demands responsibility and accountability from the government, businesses, and immigrants themselves,” stated the President on the principals of his immigration goals:
• Responsibility from the federal government to secure our borders
• Accountability for businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers
• Responsibility from people who are living in the United States illegally
• Strengthening economic competitiveness with a legal immigration system that meets our diverse needs
• Dedicating unprecedented resources to border security
• Making interior and worksite enforcement efforts smarter and more strategic
• Improving the legal immigration system
President Obama Brings Together Immigration, Civil Rights, Business, Law Enforcement and Faith-based Leaders to Discuss Immigration Reform
Karen K. Narasaki, president of the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, was present for the meeting. She commended President Obama for this effort to bring various stakeholders into the debate and that understand the need for comprehensive immigration.
“I noted to President Obama, there is an ugly immigration debate taking place on the state level that presents an opportunity for the Administration to weigh in,” said Narasaki. “Because of Congress’ failure to do its job, in Utah, Georgia, Oklahoma and other states, we continue to see draconian legislation being pushed that rips families apart, criminalizes citizens, encourages racial profiling and leads to law enforcement officers acting as immigration agents.
“I urged President Obama and Attorney General Holder to remind people, as they did last year in challenging the constitutionality of the similar Arizona law, that immigration is a federal issue that can only be solved by Congress,” she added.
Narasaki noted that the only way to eliminate illegal immigration is to fix the broken immigration system. At the same time, she said advocates will continue to call on the president to take administrative measures that can help address the plight of Dream Act students and family members who are kept from using family visas because of unnecessary bureaucratic procedures; as well as to address the unintended consequences of enforcement programs such as Secure Communities and 287(g).
The President reiterated his deep disappointment that Congressional action on immigration reform has stalled and that the DREAM Act failed to pass in the U.S. Senate after passing with a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House in December. He listened to stakeholders describe a variety of problems that result from the broken system, including: educating the best and brightest but then shipping that talent overseas; concerns over the ability of businesses to reliably hire and retain a legal workforce; and the need to level the playing field for American workers by ending the underground labor market.
In addition, local law enforcement officers expressed concern that without reform, enforcing federal immigration laws is a distraction from their important public safety and crime fighting mandates to keep their local communities safe, and faith leaders highlighted the damage to families and communities when families are separated, including parents who are taken away from their U.S. Citizen children.
The President reiterated his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform that both strengthens security at our borders while restoring accountability to the broken immigration system, and pointed out that perpetuating a broken immigration system is not an option if America is to win the future.
He made it clear that while his Administration continues to improve our legal immigration system, secure our borders, and enhance our immigration enforcement so that it is more effectively and sensibly focusing on criminals, the only way to fix what’s broken about our immigration system is through legislative action in Congress.
The President noted that he will continue to work to forge bipartisan consensus and will intensify efforts to lead a civil debate on this issue in the coming weeks and months, but also noted that he cannot be successful if he is leading the debate alone. He urged participants to take a public and active role to lead a constructive and civil debate on the need to fix the broken immigration system.
He stressed that in order to successfully tackle this issue they must bring the debate to communities around the country and involve many sectors of American society in insisting that Congress act to create a system that meets our nation’s needs for the 21st century and that upholds America’s history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. The President further committed that his Cabinet and White House team will follow up with each participant to maximize the outcome of this meeting in order to elevate the immigration debate.