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Roundup: Obama Meeting and the Push for DREAM Act—Time to Flex Some Muscle

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As we reported yesterday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-NY) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) met with President Obama to talk about the chances of passing immigration reform or the DREAM Act during Congress’s lame-duck session.

Following the meeting last night on the Ed Schultz Show, Gutierrez reported that he recommended to the President to consider passing the DREAM Act as down-payment towards comprehensive immigration reform. The President’s response, according to Gutierrez, was:

Luis, as a down payment toward comprehensive immigration reform, which I believe in, I want to accomplish in my Presidency, I am going to ask people to join you.

Watch the segment:

On Huffington Post, Congressman Gutierrez further explained his entreaty to push for the DREAM Act:

When I met with the President today, I told him that we need him to join us in fighting for the DREAM Act. I told the President we need him now and that we cannot waste another day and must push for a DREAM Act vote in the House and Senate during the lame-duck. It is not the time to hesitate or be unclear about what we are fighting for. We need the DREAM Act. I see it as a down payment on comprehensive reform and we will continue working towards comprehensive immigration reform today, tomorrow, and until it passes. But I will not pass up the chance to save a million or more children who grew up in the U.S., who know no other country, and who are threatened with deportation unless we act…By passing the DREAM Act, we have an opportunity during this lame-duck session to make a down payment on the immigration reform voters want, our country deserves, and our leaders have promised. We need a clear Democratic commitment in order to persuade Republicans — who are needed to get us over the finish line — to step forward.

Whether or not the White House will endorse a DREAM Act push is no longer in question. What remains, for some immigration advocates, is the force with which the White House will push for the DREAM Act. This will be under increasing scrutiny in the weeks ahead.  Alex Wagner from Politics Daily, in her piece “Obama to Hispanic Caucus: Calls for DREAM Act Passage, but No Specifics,” quotes America’s Voice Deputy Director Lynn Tramonte on Obama’s position to help pass the DREAM Act:

Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice, remained upbeat about the prospect of the act’s passage in Congress: “I think it’s interesting that they’re choosing to meet now” she said of the White House meeting. “There’s lots of momentum about moving the DREAM act [forward]. We’re feeling more optimistic than ever.”

But as far as White House leadership on the issue, Tramonte said, “The president made a promise to tackle immigration reform within his first year. The fact that law enforcement has remained very tough, but there haven’t been gains in reform is very concerning to advocates and to the Latino community.” She continued, “Obama has voiced his support and spoken elegantly on the issue, but he should put some muscle into the DREAM Act to show that he’s serious.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler writes:

Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D., N.Y.) were also in the Oval Office meeting. The lawmakers and the president “discussed the options on immigration reform immediately facing the Congress,” the White House said in a statement. “The president and the (lawmakers) believe that, before adjourning, Congress should approve the Dream Act.”

The White House has officially stated:

“The President and the CHC (Congressional Hispanic Caucus) leaders believe that, before adjourning, Congress should approve the DREAM Act. This legislation has traditionally enjoyed support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and would give young people who were brought as minors to the United States by their parents the opportunity to earn their citizenship by pursuing a college degree or through military service.”

They also reiterated their “strong support for bipartisan Congressional action on immigration reform at the earliest opportunity.”