One member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus emerged from yesterday’s closed-door meeting with President Obama and Vice President Biden feeling “energized” about their conversation on pushing immigration reform through executive orders and the border crisis.
In a readout of the meeting, the White House said Obama “heard from members of the Caucus about ideas for actions to improve our immigration system.”
“The President reaffirmed that he is focused on fixing as much of our broken immigration system as he can within the confines of the law, and has asked Secretary Johnson and the Attorney General to conduct a thorough review that produces recommendations before the end of the summer,” the White House said. “The President made clear that regardless of the steps he takes through administrative action, nothing replaces the need for Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform, and he will continue to make the case for swift action by Congress on a comprehensive bill.”
Obama “also emphasized the urgency for Congress to approve supplemental funding to aid the government response to the influx of migrants at the Rio Grande Valley.”
“The situation in the Rio Grande Valley underscores how our immigration system is broken, and Republicans need to stop blocking comprehensive immigration reform so we can fix the system now. In the absence of Republican action, the President has mounted a significant effort to deal with this urgent humanitarian situation,” continued the readout. “The Administration is focused on addressing these immediate and pressing challenges to make sure we are responding in an efficient and timely way and confronting the root of the problem with top-level diplomatic efforts in Central America.”
Obama thanked the caucus members for “their leadership and major accomplishments for the Latino community, including improvements in education, access to health care, and economic growth.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the caucus members told Obama they “will not support a supplemental budget request that undermines the legal protection for children” — going against the efforts of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) to reform parts of a 2008 law that provides extended amnesty proceedings for illegal immigrants from non-contiguous countries. “The CHC told the President we will fight for the rights of these children under the law and a lot of other Democrats will stand with us.”
“I saw a compassionate President who listened to our position on the deportation crisis that families and communities are facing in America. We urged the President to be as broad and expansive in using prosecutorial discretion and executive action as the Republicans have been narrow and mean-spirited when it comes to immigrants and immigration,” Gutierrez said.
“I think the President, the Vice President and their administration get it on an emotional level – they get the pain that immigrant communities are suffering, the families being split apart, and they get the pain that children fleeing violence are suffering.”
Gutierrez added that “we would denounce any country overseas that attacks, protests, and turns back children fleeing violence and turmoil.”
“And as a great nation we must set an example for others when it comes to the rule of law and the generosity of our people.”
Cuellar told Fox that he didn’t get a word in edgewise at the meeting as “there was a brief determined number of people that were going to be speaking.”
“I’ve been working on this for many years. The border issues and this crisis. I understand how the process works. And again, no matter who you are, you should never box yourself in this situation,” Cuellar said. “We got to look at a policy change with due process for this kids. But at the same time, we’ve got to have those hearings. So the kids that need to be returned safely will have to be returned safely.”
CHC chairman Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) openly criticized his colleague. “He’s a Blue Dog. He comes to the meetings once in a long time. And what you are hearing now is a unanimous voice of those who have been participating in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus,” Hinojosa said. “But to make it clear, Cuellar does not speak for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”
Cuellar said it’s about doing the right thing.
“I’m Hispanic, I’m a Blue Dog, 80 percent of my population that I represent are Hispanic. I — as a member of Congress, I can make my proposal. I live on the border,” Cuellar said. “And by the way, it would have been nice if he would have spoken to me, asked me what my legislation does. He was just ignorant of the facts.”