As White House Immigration Reform Meeting Looms, Obama Administration Not Sharing Advocates' Urgency

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

May Day immigration reform demonstration in Massachusetts. (Photo: Eduardo A. de Oliveira/

A May Day immigration reform demonstration in Massachusetts. (Photo: Eduardo A. de Oliveira/

Despite the sense of urgency among immigration advocates, the White House seems prepared for a drawn-out debate over immigration reform.  The conversation should start this Thursday in a meeting with lawmakers from both parties, if President Barack Obama’s schedule finally permits it.

The administration’s deliberate approach suggests that the meeting will not lead to swift action. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said immigration reform is not likely to see much action in Congress this year, as reported by Roll Call.

“I can see the president’s desire for it to happen, but understanding that currently where we sit the math makes that real difficult,” Gibbs said.

The president’s spokesman added that the administration’s expectation is to have “the beginning of formal debate” on the issue later this year.

Statements like these are fueling frustration among pro-immigration reform ranks; especially, when they come after another of Obama’s über-cautious utterances.

On Friday, the president repeated he was “committed” to passing a reform bill, but seemed to take half a step back when he changed his wording about undocumented immigrants from the oft-repeated campaign promise of “a path to citizenship” to the need to “clarify the status of millions who are here illegally.” [ See White House official transcript here ]

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Peter Wallsten, immigration reform may have to wait until after next year’s mid-term elections.

Some strategists believe the most likely time to press the issue will be in 2011, when Obama, once again needing Latino votes to win states such as Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada and perhaps to compete in Texas and Arizona, will be most motivated to lobby nervous Democrats on behalf of a legalization plan.

[ Immigration reform to get a quiet kickoff

Los Angeles Times ]

The White House two-step on immigration policy is nothing new. And it’s starting to exasperate some advocates and observers.

“While both the President and members of Congress continue to talk about the importance of passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform, people are suffering daily under our broken immigration system,” said a statement by Oregon immigrant rights group CAUSA.

“We don’t need more speeches” –it added– “we need serious and concerted action.”

Obama “reiterated his commitment to passing immigration reform, but the urgency of needing to tackle the issue ‘now’ was completely missing from his speech today,” wrote Jennifer McFadyen at “Unfortunately, this omission fits into his new pattern of declaring his commitment to immigration reform but providing nothing to back it up.”

President Obama needs to “walk the talk” and act on his commitment to immigration reform. Vague timelines and postponements do not fit in with a government that promotes integrity and openness. Don’t leave reformers and immigration advocates hanging.

According to FOX News’ Daniela Sicuranza, Gibbs said Thursday’s meeting is seen in the West Wing as an “ongoing and continued conversation.”

President Obama, the spokesman added, “hopes that [immigration reform] will happen soon, but doesn’t have a crystal ball as to when that might happen.”

AboutDiego Graglia
Diego Graglia is a bilingual multimedia journalist who has worked at major media outlets in the U.S. and Latin America. He is currently the editor-in-chief at Expansion, Meixco’s leading business magazine.