President and Secretary Napolitano Reaffirm Commitment to Reform and Accountability
Washington, DC -On Thursday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and senior White House and DHS staff met with immigrant advocates and leaders from faith, business, law enforcement, and labor to discuss immigration reform. Surprisingly, the President of the United States also dropped by the meeting unannounced. The meeting included five small group "break-outs" for participants to discuss issues in depth with Homeland Security and White House staff. The following is a statement byAli Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, who attended the meeting on Thursday. The Forum is a non-partisan, non-profit pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington and a member of the management team of the Reform Immigration FOR Americacampaign.
President Obama and Secretary Napolitano remain committed to comprehensive immigration reform, know that enforcement of our out-dated laws alone is no solution, and understood when we told them that pro-reform constituencies are growing impatient. They both know that reforming the immigration system is the best way to achieve control over immigration, establish legality, and enhance security.
We were there to tell Secretary Napolitano that she needs to take a leadership role in building support for comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill and with the American public. She told us she understands she has to do a better job communicating and a more consistent job of leading, but we need to see action to be sure she really got the message.
The President is clear that he wants immigration reform to move forward this year so that we can pass a bill early next year. To do that, we need to see more motion from Congress and more push from Secretary Napolitano. We hope to see detailed congressional proposals shortly after recess.
The President said specifically that when it comes to the local police charged with enforcing federal immigration law under 287(g) agreements that he wants these local law enforcement agencies held accountable. We continue to oppose expanding 287(g) agreements and other expansions of state and local involvement in federal enforcement issues, but we intend to make sure the President follows through on holding these police forces accountable. For example, it will be hard to feel that this administration is serious about taking a new approach to enforcement when bad actors like Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona continue to conduct sweeps through Latino neighborhoods under the authority of 287(g).
The President remains one of the most committed and effective salespeople for comprehensive immigration reform. Starting with the constituencies already committed to reform - labor unions, employers, law enforcement, faith, and immigrant groups - is important, but we need to see continued vocal leadership by the President and his Secretary of Homeland Security with the American people.
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BRIEFING FRIDAY: The Reform Immigration FOR America campaign will hold a press briefing via conference call at 1:00 p.m. ET on Friday, August 21. Contact Katherine Vargas at (202) 383-5987 for details.
QUESTIONS FROM ACROSS AMERICA: As part of the preparation for today's meeting, the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign solicited questions from our network of supporters around the country via text messages, e-mail, web sites and social web media. In just 24 hours, we received over 4,000 questions for the Secretary. Here are three examples:
I'm a US Citizen married to an "illegal immigrant" and my question is why do we have to wait until 2010 when we can try to address the issue NOW? - Freeport, NY
Why did I get the impression that the Secretary was for comprehensive immigration reform when she was governor, but now it seems all she wants to do is shore up the borders and ignore the situation as it really is? - Pickerington, OH
- Can we work on Immigration Reform NOW? Instead of waiting until 2010. President Obama made it clear that Immigration Reform was one of his priorities. It is on the top of my list. That is why I voted for him. - Los Angeles, CA
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN: The Reform Immigration FOR America campaign is a coalition of more than 600 faith, labor, business, progressive, and immigration reform groups that have joined together to get comprehensive immigration reform passed. For more information please visitwww.reformimmigrationforamerica.org or www.reformamigratoriaproamerica.org