Obama urges pressure on Congress to act on immigration

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 20, 2011 2:19 AM
Obama urges pressure on Congress to act on immigration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he cannot reform U.S. immigration laws alone and pressure must be brought to bear on Congress to fix what he called a "broken" system.

Speaking at White House meeting of groups with an interest in the immigration debate, Obama said he would be deeply disappointed if federal action on immigration remains stalled in Congress.

"The only way to fix what's broken about our immigration system is through legislative action in Congress," Obama said, according to a summary of his remarks released by the White House.

The White House meeting included business, law enforcement, religious and political leaders from across the country. Among those invited included Mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Julian Castro of San Antonio, Texas; Cargill Chief Executive Greg Page; Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey; Civil Rights activist Al Sharpton; and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Participants said the failure to act on immigration has led to a variety of problems including educating and then shipping overseas the best and brightest people, inability of business to hire and retain a legal workforce, a need to end the underground labor market, separation of families, and resources devoted to enforcing immigration laws, according to the White House statement.

"Perpetuating a broken immigration system is not an option if America is to win the future," the White House quoted Obama as saying.

It was not clear if the meeting was the prelude to a renewed Obama push for comprehensive immigration legislation in Congress.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress are preoccupied with trying to agree on a budget for the next fiscal year and on raising the ceiling on the amount of debt the U.S. government issue. But while Congress has stalled on the immigration issue, individual states are attempting to fill the void.

Arizona last year passed a controversial measure allowing police to check the immigration status of suspected illegal migrants. The law was blocked in court but several other states have followed suit this year with immigration measures. Utah and Georgia have enacted new laws and proposals are moving through numerous other legislatures.

The meeting was attended by several Obama cabinet members but none of the Republican Congressional leadership were listed as invited.

(Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Peter Bohan)