— President Barack Obama announced after a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Friday that he will lay out some of his plans for immigration reform on Tuesday in Las Vegas.
Members of the caucus who were present at the meeting said Obama assured them that he shares the group’s basic beliefs about immigration reform, most notably that making a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — which some Republicans oppose — is an absolute must as they push for legislation.
“The President was pleased to hear from CHC members and noted that they share the same vision, including that any legislation must include a path to earned citizenship,” the administration in a statement. “The President further noted that there is no excuse for stalling or delay.”
Seven members of Congress were present at the meeting, including Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Immigration Task Force Chairman Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Chairman of the Democratic Caucus Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.).
Obama told the group that his plans for immigration reform align with their own, especially with regards to the need for a pathway to citizenship, Becerra said after the meeting.
“He said on more than one occasion that his principles virtually mirrored the Congressional Hispanic Caucus principles — and if you look at our principles, we are determined to fight against creating a second class of Americans,” Becerra told HuffPost. “I don’t think there’s any light between where we are and where he is on the issue of having America legally create a second class of citizens.”
The Associated Press reported that the White House will launch an effort on immigration next week, as will a bipartisan group of senators, likely the so-called”gang of eight” – four Republicans, four Democrats — who have already begun to work toward a deal.
A Senate Democratic aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the group’s plans, told HuffPost that the senators hope to release a set of principles in February, and then a bill.
A pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States is considered a non-negotiable for many Democrats and immigrant advocates, who argue anything else would result in a huge group of second-class residents. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that advocates for a pathway to citizenship will have to cave and accept temporary status instead, with no special road to citizenship.
Meanwhile, senators plan to move ahead on other piecemeal immigration bills. The Hill reported Friday that Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida are teaming up with Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Chris Coons of Delaware to introduce a bill next week that focuses on visas for high-skilled workers.
Obama administration officials have said they believe piece-by-piece reform would be less productive, but Hatch told The Hill he thinks his bill could aid in the broader legislative effort.
“I think we need to break the ice and let people know that this is the art of the doable … at least I think it’s very doable, and I think everybody ought to come on [to support it] because it makes sense and it’s a bipartisan bill already,” he said. “If we put that through that says to them, well maybe we can do more and if we can do more, I’m going to be right there helping.”
Becerra said that the president indicated again on Friday to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he wants a comprehensive bill. The congressman declined to speak about the bipartisan work in the House, but said there is “lots of conversation” going on between the members. His view is that bipartisan groups in each chamber should work on their own bills, then come together to find an agreement that can pass both houses, he said.
“It’s up to Congress to pass legislation, and so Congress ultimately has to draft and present legislation,” he said. “And the smartest thing would be to draft a bipartisan bill that has bicameral support with the president right there at the helm as well.”
Menendez said in an email that he is “very enthused” about Obama’s commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.
“The President’s leadership is essential to our ultimate success,” he said. “I applaud him for announcing his commitment at the very beginning of this term and hope that the bipartisan process that is ongoing in the Senate will lead us to passage of a bill he can sign.”