Having met with business leaders and entertainment stars on stalled immigration reform, President Barack Obama on Tuesday heard from Hispanic lawmakers who have been pressuring him to help certain immigrants stay in the U.S. while they wait for congressional action.
The meeting with members of the all-Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus was the president's third on immigration in as many weeks. But none has led to a major breakthrough.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has been one of Obama's toughest critics, said the president agreed that it makes little sense to deport young people who have grown up in the U.S. after they were brought to the country illegally by parents. Such children are often called DREAMers, in reference to the proposed DREAM Act that would have given many of them a chance to remain legally in the U.S. The bill failed last year, but it is expected to be introduced again this session.
"How is the president going to proceed? You guys are going to have to ask him," Gutierrez told reporters on the White House grounds. He said last month that he was uncertain whether he could support the Obama in 2012 if the president didn't step up immigration changes.
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of Texas said the caucus would like to see consistent policies on how young illegal immigrants are treated. In some but not all cases, students' deportations are delayed, he said.
Earlier in the day, White House advisers Melody Barnes and Cecilia Munoz told reporters in a briefing that the White House would not agree to proposals suggesting executive action to declare categorically that certain segments of the immigrant community would be exempted from deportation.
But when asked whether the administration was asking the Homeland Security Department to consider taking different approaches on deportation or other issues, Barnes and Munoz said the department was considering a range of actions.
"The president stressed absolutely that the real fix is going to have to be legislative," Gonzalez said.
There has been widespread disappointment among many immigrants and their supporters that Obama has been unable to persuade Congress to pass an immigration bill, particularly early in his term when Democrats held majorities in the House and Senate.
The issue, combined with the administration's continued tough immigration enforcement — nearly 393,000 were deported last year — could affect the high support among Hispanics that Obama enjoyed in 2008.