Mel Martinez joins Obama for discussion on immigration reform
Former Florida U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez is among the guests at the White House this afternoon for a discussion on immigration reform.
Martinez worked extensively on legislation in 2007 that came as close as any to achieving reform but drew withering criticism from fellow Republicans as granting amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants.
Numerous officials were invited to attend, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Al Sharpton, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The White House said President Obama wants 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."
UPDATE 6:24 p.m.: The White House "readout" of the meeting is below.
From the White House:
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.