Pres. Barack Obama took the first step on Thursday towards immigration reform and an amnesty for more than 11 million illegal aliens. Members of the Administration met with 30 Members of Congress from both sides of the issue and both sides of the aisle to get the debate rolling, but Pres. Obama said after the meeting that there was "not by any means consensus across the table."
Despite the differing opinions on how to handle the illegal alien population, how to secure the borders and how to monitor the flow of future immigrants, Pres. Obama said he's committed to getting an amnesty through Congress.
"It's going to require some heavy lifting," Pres. Obama said. "It's going to require a victory of practicality and common sense and good policy making over short-term politics. That's what I'm committed to doing as president.
"What I am encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue, we've got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done."
Pres. Obama made it clear that the Administration needs to prove to the American people that they can enforce the laws before providing amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.
"The American people still want to see a solution in which we are tightening up our borders, or cracking down on employers who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages," Obama said.
Obama has already started working with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to increase enforcement.
"I have asked my Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Janet Napolitano, to lead up a group that is going to be working with a leadership group from both the House and the Senate to start systematically working through these issues from the congressional leaders and those with the relevant jurisdiction. What we've heard is through a process of regular order, they would like to work through these issues both in the House and in the Senate."
These issues can all be handled through several pieces of proposed legislation already offered in the House and supported by NumbersUSA. View the list of "5 Great Immigration-Reduction Bills" that would increase border security, increase interior enforcement, allow local law enforcement officials to enforce immigration laws, reduce rewards for illegal aliens and make E-Verify mandatory nationwide.
Pres. Obama recognized two Republican Senators for their support on addressing immigration reform - Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
"I want to especially commend John McCain, who's with me today, because along with folks like Lindsey Graham, he has already paid a significant political cost for doing the right thing," Obama said.
Senator McCain said he would not support an independent commission that would analyze the need for foreign workers based on economic conditions that has been brought up during the Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearings led by Senator Chuck Schumer. But according to a New York Times article, Sen. McCain said after the meeting that an expanded guest worker program had to be part of an immigration reform deal.
Here's a list of the Members of Congress who attended Thursday's meeting:
Senator Richard Durbin
Senator John Cornyn
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Lindsey Graham
Senator Jon Kyl
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Mel Martinez
Senator John McCain
Senator Robert Menendez
Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Jeff Sessions
Senator Arlen Specter
Representative Xavier Becerra
Representative Howard Berman
Representative Anh Cao
Representative James Clyburn
Representative John Conyers
Representative Joe Crowley
Representative Lincoln Diaz Balart
Representative Gabrielle Giffords
Representative Luis Gutierrez
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
Representative Zoe Lofgren
Representative Adam Putnam
Representative Silvestre Reyes
Representative Loretta Sanchez
Representative Heath Shuler
Representative Lamar Smith
Representative Nydia Velazquez
Representative Anthony Weiner
Also in attendance were DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, and Chief of Staff, who said on Thursday that there aren't enough votes in Congress for an amnesty bill, Rahm Emanuel.
Updated: Mon, Jun 29th 2009 @ 11:00am EDT