Cautious Optimism Despite Another Delay in White House Immigration Reform Talks

President Obama - Photo: WhiteHouse.gov

There is no new date set for the immigration meeting. (Photo: WhiteHouse.gov)

Friday afternoons are often when bad news is made public in Washington D.C. Pro-immigration advocates were reminded of this last week when they learned that President Barack Obama for the second time postponed a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform due to “scheduling conflicts.”

But activists are keeping a sunny outlook in the face of increasing doubts about the White House’s commitment to have significant work done on the issue this year.

We’re disappointed at the delay, but this does not diminish the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform this year,” Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D.-N.Y.), president of the Hispanic Caucus in Congress, told Los Angeles newspaper La Opinión.

The bipartisan meeting, which is expected to include members of both houses of Congress, was scheduled initially for June 8th, then rescheduled for Wed. June 17th. Now, there’s no certainty about the new date.

Univisión.com‘s Jorge Cancino quotes an unidentified White House official as saying the meeting would take place this week, although the source mentions no date or time. La Opinión reports it has been pushed to next week.

Both times the summit has been rescheduled the White House cited “scheduling conflicts.” Republican critics say there is something else at play.

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R.-Calif.), an “anti-illegal-immigration” lawmaker accused the White House on Saturday of playing politics with the delicate issue, according to The Hill. Bilbray said key Republican lawmakers had not been invited to the much-expected meeting.

“Do you really want to get a consensus or are you just putting together people that you agree with for a political maneuver?” the House Immigration Reform Caucus chairman said in an interview with The Hill. “If you’re going to have a meeting you have to include the ranking members of the committees of jurisdiction.”

[ Bilbray: White House playing games

with immigration – The Hill ]

“Nobody knows when it is. Nobody knows who is going. Nobody knows what the agenda is,” Ana Navarro, a Florida Republican activist, wrote in an e-mail to Politico reporter Ben Smith.

They are stringing along the immig[ration] advocates and Latino groups to whom Obama owes so much. Latinos need to stand their ground, hold his feet to the fire and demand that he deliver on repeated promises to get this done within first year or call him out on it. This is a litmus test for Hispanics, and one which so far Obama is failing.

Pro-reform activists seem to be in a cautious mood and some have issued their own, albeit light, warnings to the Obama Administration.

“The bipartisan meeting at the White House is very important and needs to happen soon”, said Francisco Lopez, the executive director of Oregon-based CAUSA, Oregon’s Immigrant Rights Coalition, which announced an outreach campaign to have allies encourage “the bipartisan meeting to go forward.”

“Patience is wearing thin in the Latino and Immigrant Communities and President Obama needs to follow through with the commitment he made to more than 10 million Latinos that voted in the last Presidential Election,” Lopez added in a press release.

Perhaps Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum and a spokeswoman for the Reform Immigration For America campaign, best described the activists’ mood in a press release entitled: “Delay is a mistake, but not a setback.

Noorani warned:

We think delaying the meeting is a mistake. Momentum is building for comprehensive immigration reform with more and more Americans demanding solutions. The President is too smart not to move on immigration reform this year. We don’t see this as a signal that President Obama is stepping back from reform.

Oscar Paredes, an organizer with the National Day Laborers Union, was also cautiously hopeful.

“I don’t think the meeting’s cancellation is due to pressure from anti-immigration groups,” Paredes told New York newspaper El Diario/La Prensa. “More than that, I think the economic situation forces the president to reorganize his agenda.”

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