Readout of the President’s Meeting with
Stakeholders on Fixing the Broken Immigration System
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.
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. The President 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.
The President 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. The President urged meeting 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.
Background on the President’s Meeting with Senior Administration Officials and Stakeholders on Immigration
This Tuesday, the President will meet with Senior Administration officials and stakeholders to discuss the importance of fixing the broken immigration system for our nation’s 21st century economic and security needs so that America can win the future. The President will also 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. After the meeting, several stakeholders will hold a media availability at the stakeout location outside the West Wing at 4:25 p.m.
Administration officials expected to attend the meeting include:
Attorney General Eric Holder
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor
Nancy Ann DeParle, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
Melody Barnes, Assistant to the President & Director of Domestic Policy Council
Gene Sperling, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy & Director of National Economic Council
Austan Goolsbee, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers
Cecilia Munoz, Deputy Assistant to the President & Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
Heidi Avery, Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security
Stakeholders expected to attend the meeting include:
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Hon. Michael Bloomberg, City of New York
Bill Bratton, Former Police Chief, City of Los Angeles and City of New York
Hon. Julian Castro, Mayor, City of San Antonio
Secretary Michael Chertoff, Former Secretary Homeland Security
Governor John Engler, President and CEO, Business Roundtable
Hon. Eric Garcetti, City Council, President City of Los Angeles
Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Former Secretary of Commerce
Raymond Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department
Senator Mel Martinez, Former United States Senator/Chairman, Florida, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean JP Morgan Chase
Greg Page, Chairman & CEO, Cargill
Secretary Federico Pena, Former Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy
John Podesta, CEO, Center for American Progress
Charles Ramsey, Chief of Police, City of Philadelphia/President, Major City Chiefs
Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Former California Governor
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
John C. Wester, Bishop, Archdiocese of Salt Lake City
Background on Administration Immigration Policy
President Obama remains deeply committed to fixing the broken immigration system. The United States has been enriched by a steady stream of hardworking and talented people who have helped make America an engine of the global economy and a beacon of hope around the world. As we work to rebuild the economy, our ability to thrive depends, in part, on restoring responsibility and accountability to the immigration system. President Obama believes Democrats and Republicans should come together to tackle an issue that is critical not only to our national security but also to the economy and our global competiveness.
The President has outlined a vision for fixing the broken immigration system through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability:
- Responsibility from the federal government to secure our borders: Today, our borders are more secure than at any time in the past several decades. However, the Administration continues to refine and strengthen its strategy. Enforcement resources should be increased where appropriate and focused on stopping potential terrorists and others who would do our nation harm.
- Accountability for businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers: Employers that break the law by deliberately hiring and exploiting undocumented workers must be held accountable. At the same time, we must give employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.
- Responsibility from people who are living in the United States illegally: Those people living here illegally must also be held accountable for getting on the right side of the law, by admitting they broke the law, paying taxes and a penalty, learning English before they can get in line to become legalized and citizens. Being a citizen of this country comes not only with rights but also with fundamental responsibilities. We can create a pathway for legal status that is fair, and reflects of our values.
- Strengthen economic competiveness by creating a legal immigration system that meets our diverse needs: Our immigration laws should encourage high-skilled individuals we train in our world-class institutions of higher education to stay in the United States and create jobs, stop punishing innocent young people for their parents’ actions by denying children the chance to earn an education or join the military so they can earn higher wages and generate more tax revenues, provide farmers a legal way to hire the workers they rely on, and should respect families following the rules.
The President takes seriously his responsibility to enforce our immigration laws and secure the border. Over the last two years, the Obama Administration has dedicated unprecedented resources to secure the border, taken important steps to make interior and worksite enforcement of our immigration laws smarter, and more effective, and made improvements to the legal immigration system.
- Dedicating Unprecedented Resources to Secure the Border: Today, there are more “boots on the ground” along the Southwest Border than ever before. DHS has also deployed thousands of technology assets, including aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and completed nearly all fencing. Last year, Congress answered the President’s call to bolster the federal government’s efforts through the Southwest Border Security Supplemental Bill. DHS is using these resources to build on their successful efforts to decrease the numbers of illegal aliens who cross the border and increase seizures of illegal currency, drugs, and guns that have led to thousands of criminal arrests and prosecutions.
- Making our Interior and Worksite Enforcement Efforts Smarter and More Strategic: The Administration has laid out new enforcement strategies targeted at removing immigrants convicted of serious crimes and unscrupulous employers who seek to exploit both immigrant and American workers. These new strategies are having real results with deportations of criminal immigrants significantly increasing and auditing and fines against employers who are not in compliance with immigration laws in FY 2010. DHS has also invested in implementing important reforms to the detention system, enhancing the security and efficiency of the detention system while prioritizing the health and safety of detainees.
- Improving our Legal Immigration System: The Administration is improving processing times and clearing backlogs of pending immigration applications, including fully eliminating the FBI National Name Check Program’s backlog. DHS is also working to ensure that naturalization is accessible to all qualified legal immigrants. Since January 2009, DHS has worked with the Armed Forces to naturalize 14,000 military personnel. DHS is also devoting critical funding to support citizenship preparation and integration programs in communities throughout the country.
Our efforts have been enormously successful, but we need comprehensive reform that demands responsibility and accountability from the government, businesses, and immigrants themselves.