Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus urged President Obama on Wednesday to hit the road to put public pressure on House Republicans to support comprehensive immigration reform. According to members who attended the meeting with the president, Obama made no commitment but promised to consider stepped-up travel while the House debates the hot-button issue.
"They are weighing their options. There is nothing official," one participant said. "Obviously we want him out there. The CHC wants him out there shining the light and keeping the public interest on this up. He's got a big megaphone and he has a lot invested in this thing. So the CHC, absolutely, we want him to be a leader on this issue, and he has been a leader."
In a cautiously worded White House statement after the meeting, there was no commitment of travel by the president. Instead, there was a promise that "members of his Cabinet and senior administration officials will bring this economic argument to key stakeholders" such as business leaders and local officials "to call upon the House to do the right thing on immigration."
Wary of reports that some members of the caucus are unhappy with the president's role so far in the immigration debate, caucus Chairman Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, issued a statement after the meeting stressing, "There is no daylight between the CHC and the administration on this issue. We share the same set of principles and understand why immigration reform is important to the American public, especially the Latino community."
Talking to reporters outside the White House after the meeting, Hinojosa downplayed reports that Republican opposition has doomed any real immigration reform in the House. He said he left a recent meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, convinced "that there is great support for some type of a bipartisan bill" in the House. He expressed optimism that Republicans will respond "to the 80 percent of the people in the polls that have been taken saying that Congress must find a way to get this passed as soon as possible."
Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., said Obama noted that he could hurt the prospects for reform if he is seen more publicly on the matter or if he reduces the number of deportations. "He's afraid that it's going to harm the overall process," Sires told reporters.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, described the session as "productive, incredibly candid, and comprehensive." Other members said the agenda was more wide-ranging than simply immigration. The members also pressed the president to include more Latinos in his administration and voiced their dismay over the recent Supreme Court ruling crippling the Voting Rights Act. They urged Obama to fight to get Thomas Perez confirmed as secretary of Labor. And they discussed the importance of enrolling Hispanics who do not have health insurance so they can get the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.