President Obama met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the Oval Office last night to discuss how to move forward on immigration reform, with one caucus member saying afterward that their pleas for executive action were heard.
The meeting came after Obama threatened to veto two bills that passed in the House — the ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014, which puts in place a procedure that would expedite the ability of Congress to sue the executive branch for failure to faithfully execute the laws, and the Faithful Execution of the Law Act of 2014, which expands the number of circumstances when the attorney general is required to report non-enforcement of the law to Congress — that Democrats claimed were intended to block Obama from using his executive authority on immigration reform.
“House Republicans are doubling down on a strategy to defeat immigration reform. These two bills would disable the President’s ability to temporarily alleviate deportations and the separation of families,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
“These bills are another misguided attack on immigrant communities by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Instead of working to keep families together, they are punishing young people who are studying and working to become contributing members of our society,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.). “If my Republicans colleagues want the support and trust of the Latino community, they have to earn it through their actions.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), sponsor of the ENFORCE Act, said it was about much more than immigration.
“The example I usually cite is mandatory minimums. Mandatory minimums have been around in drug cases for 25 years, and their constitutionality has been upheld. So when the attorney general, who is a member of the executive branch, just summarily announces he is no longer going to inform courts on the drug amount, you put that with immigration laws and 20-some-odd waivers with the Affordable Care Act, and the rhetoric,” Gowdy said on Fox. “You know, the president came into the House of Representative and essentially said, I’m going to do it with you or without you. So it is a combination of his rhetoric as well as his failure to follow the law that led us to introduce this.”
The White House said Obama’s meeting last night included Becerra, Caucus Chairman Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), and CHC Immigration Task Force Chair Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).
“The discussion focused on their mutual efforts to pass commonsense immigration reform legislation through the House of Representatives this year. The President emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system,” the administration said in a readout of the meeting. “He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law.”
“The President thanked the Members of the CHC for their work on these challenging issues, and expressed his strong desire to work together to put pressure on Congressional Republicans to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible.”
Gutierrez said after the meeting that he’ll sit down with Johnson next week, followed by a Homeland Security meeting with the entire Hispanic Caucus.
“Just as important, Republicans should step up to the plate and take action on immigration reform and not abandon the American people on this important issue. And in the absence of action by House Republicans, administrative action is imperative,” Gutierrez said. “It is clear that the pleas from the community got through to the President.”
“…This began a new dialogue between the CHC and the White House that had been dormant for too long. The CHC Members who met with the President were adamant that the President needed to act.”