Obama, Hispanic caucus say immigration reform still a priority
President Barack Obama and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus agreed Tuesday that immigration reform is still an important priority for the next legislature, the White House said.
Obama met with the lawmakers Tuesday in the Oval Office to determine the next strategy to pursue following the "disappointing" defeat of the DREAM Act last Saturday in the Senate.
That bill would have cleared the way for legalizing young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country before the age of 16, lived here continuously for at least five years, and who either go to college or enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Obama and the CHC lawmakers "discussed their deep disappointment with the DREAM Act failing in the U.S. Senate despite having the support of a majority of Senators and a majority of the American people, noting that it would have cut the budget deficit by $2.2 billion over the next 10 years," the White House said.
Obama, according to the statement, "reiterated that he will not give up on the DREAM Act" and thanked the lawmakers for their leadership in trying to get it passed.
The lawmakers present at the meeting were Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Reps. Xavier Becerra of California, Nydia Velazquez of New York, Charlie Gonzalez of Texas and Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.
All are Democrats.
The president also repeated "his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, pointing out that we can no longer perpetuate a broken immigration system that is not working for our country or our economy," the White House said.
Obama and the legislators "agreed that the American people expect both parties to come together around common sense approaches to solve our toughest problems, not kick them down the road," according to the statement.
They also committed to working among themselves and with Congress to achieve that objective.
Obama and the legislators also agreed that reforming the immigration system "should remain a top priority for the coming Congress."
In that sense, they agreed to collaborate in promoting proposals "not only to strengthen security at the nation's borders, but also restore responsibility and accountability to what everyone agrees is a badly broken immigration system."
The Senate's rejection of the DREAM Act dealt a heavy blow to Democratic hopes of getting the measure passed.
The bill was blocked when a procedural vote did not win the 60 votes in favor necessary for closing the debate and proceeding to approval.
Bogged down in the endless hemming and hawing of Congress since it was first introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act opens the way to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people.
Critics alleged that passing the DREAM Act would be the equivalent of amnesty, which in turn would encourage more foreigners to cross borders into the United States illegally.
They also say that it would be extremely costly, since legalized students would be eligible for federal subsidies that could soar to $6 billion a year.
But the bill's defenders say that, among other things, it would clear the way so that young people with talent could contribute to the nation's economy.
The Migration Policy Institute says that the measure would have immediately favored more than 700,000 young people, while the Department of Education estimates that more than 50,000 college-eligible undocumented immigrants graduate from U.S. high schools every year.