President Obama held a meeting in the White House Tuesday at which administration officials and other stakeholders discussed immigration reform. Immigrant rights groups are praising the president’s attention to the issue, while criticizing what they see as a lack of immigrant voices “at the table.”
A statement released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary states:
In a meeting in the State Dining Room this afternoon, the President and members of his Cabinet and senior staff met with a broad group of business, law enforcement, faith, and former and current elected leaders from across the political spectrum to hear their ideas and suggestions on how to tackle our shared challenge of fixing our nation’s broken immigration system in order to meet our 21st century economic and security needs.
According to the The Miami Herald, former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., participated in the meeting.
The Herald adds that “the White House says the president plans to ‘discuss how we can work together to foster a constructive national conversation on this important issue as we work to build a bipartisan consensus in Congress.’”
Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a press release:
While we appreciate the President’s effort to keep immigration reform on the national agenda, his actions belie his intent. We’re greatly disappointed that the meeting didn’t include more voices of immigrants at the table, including representatives of directly affected communities especially the people in the state of Arizona and Georgia where there is a modern day human rights crisis. If the President genuinely wanted to fix the broken immigration system, he would respond to the growing chorus of voices calling for the suspension of the secure communities program and move to legalize instead of further criminalize our immigrant communities.
The Organizing Network has been at the forefront of the request to have Immigration and Customs Enforcement release internal documents about Secure Communities, a controversial federal immigration-enforcement program.
Latina Lista said, “In trying to gauge just how serious the administration is in dealing with the issue, it appears to be more telling of just who wasn’t invited to this meeting. For example, Rep. Luis Gutierrez who has been stumping around the country challenging Obama to do something to fix the broken immigration system.”
The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that John Wester, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and an architect of the Utah Compact, was one of the leaders invited to the meeting that included Obama and a bevy of Cabinet heads.
The Tribune adds that the Utah compact, “in addition to calling for a federal-based, humane solution to immigration, says local law enforcement should focus on crime, not civil laws; expresses a desire to keep families together; and recognizes the economic contributions of immigrants.”