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This afternoon, President Obama convened a diverse group of stakeholders from across the political spectrum. The meeting focused on how to engage the American people in a discussion that would create momentum towards the enactment of immigration reform. Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, attended the meeting. Following is his statement:
“This was an important meeting for a number of reasons. First, the President made it clear he is willing to use the political capital he has to make the case for immigration reform that can fix our nation’s dysfunctional immigration system in a way that ends illegal immigration. It was gratifying to hear the President reaffirm his commitment to immigration reform. It shows that he is raising the stakes on the issue and underscores the fact that doing nothing is not an option.
“Second, the meeting brought together a number of unusual allies – including former Republican officials and elected leaders, business representatives, mayors, law enforcement leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders from across the political spectrum and civil rights leaders. Their engagement will be critical to creating more political space for a policy breakthrough. However, if leaders within this group – especially business and Republicans – do not challenge their friends in Congress to work on a bipartisan basis, the immigration system will remain broken and the public will remain frustrated with Washington’s failure to resolve this problem.
“Third, a number of the participants made it clear that while legislative action is the ultimate solution, there is a need for immediate administrative actions to reduce the suffering in immigrant communities. Among these were calls to end the deportation for DREAMers; reform programs such as 287g and Secure Communities, which, as law enforcement leaders said, are driving a wedge between immigrants and local police and undermining the trust critical to effective community policing; prioritize deportations of serious criminals over hard working families; crack down on bad actor employers, not vulnerable workers; and stop misguided state immigration laws like Arizona’s S.B. 1070 – in the courts, if necessary.
“There is real pain in immigrant communities due to unrelenting enforcement-only policies, and real frustration among the American people that their political leaders haven’t fixed the broken immigration system. Today’s meeting is but a first step. Now comes the hard part: moving from words into action. There is homework for everyone attending the meeting today, from the President to Republican lawmakers to immigrant advocates. The Administration needs to reform its enforcement priorities to truly focus on the worst of the worst, advocates need to take their cause to the American people, and Republicans need to step up to the plate and help enact real immigration reform.”