During Meeting at White House, Rep. Baca Asks President Bush to Help with Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA) spoke today with President George W. Bush at the White House and asked for his help to advance comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Rep. Baca led a delegation of 22 Hispanic lawmakers from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus - which Rep. Baca chairs - and the Congressional Hispanic Conference to discuss immigration and the need for President Bush's active involvement in efforts to pass legislation. The bipartisan group included 20 members of the House of Representatives, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL).
Rep. Baca recognized the historic nature of today's meeting and pointed to the collaboration of both Democratic and Republican groups as evidence of the importance of this issue. He said, "We are here with a sense of urgency. We now have a rare opportunity to solve the immigration crisis. We must act, and the moment is now."
(The full text of Rep. Baca's remarks during the meeting at the White House is included below.)
Members of the group called on the President to help pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, in particular a bipartisan bill known as the STRIVE Act (H.R. 1645), introduced by Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
"The STRIVE Act is the best solution to the problems in the immigration system. It takes a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, starting with tougher border security and enforcement, and it enjoys bipartisan support," said Rep. Baca.
Following the meeting, Rep. Baca expressed optimism. "I am encouraged that President Bush committed himself to working with our bipartisan group and to help gather the support needed to pass legislation for the good of the American people. I told him it would be a great legacy for him, but even more so for our nation and future generations, if we can pass comprehensive immigration reform, and he agreed. He seemed sincere, and we are prepared to work with him to accomplish this," said Rep. Baca.
Rep. Joe Baca's remarks to President Bush as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. President: As the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), I thank you for agreeing to meet with us.
The CHC does not visit the White House frequently. So this is a special occasion, and we appreciate the chance to discuss one of the highest priorities for our Caucus and our nation with you.
We are joined today by our colleagues from the Congressional Hispanic Conference. The fact that we are united as a bipartisan group also proves the importance of the immigration issue to all of us.
Mr. President, we are here with a sense of urgency.
I believe that America is truly at a pivotal point in our nation's history, and that we now have a rare opportunity to solve the immigration crisis.
There has been no meaningful action on immigration for more than 20 years, and during this time the situation has not improved. Clearly, we must act, and the moment is now.
There is broad support for comprehensive immigration reform, among both the American public and those of us responsible for making the laws.
Many Democrats and Republicans agree on what needs to be done, as the group here today reflects.
The elections are over. Immigration should not be used for partisan attacks. Now the American people expect us to get results.
Mr. President, we believe that the STRIVE Act is the best solution to the problems in the immigration system. It takes a comprehensive approach to immigration reform and enjoys bipartisan support.
This bill helps the economy and our national security.
This bill is welcome news for American businesses and consumers as well as for hard-working, law-abiding immigrants.
And this bill has an important moral component by promoting family values, in particular by helping unite families that previously have been divided on different sides of the border.
Most people agree that children should be able to live with their parents but unless we fix the system, many immigrant children will continue to be separated from their moms and dads.
That is not just! That is not fair! That is not right!
As I said, there is bipartisan consensus on the key aspects of this legislation. But we have no illusions that it will be easy to pass.
We understand that, and we are not discouraged. Instead we are determined to work hard to achieve this. And we are prepared to work with you, Mr. President.
In fact, we understand that we must work with you and we ask for your support, for your leadership and active involvement to help us persuade a majority of Congress to pass the STRIVE Act.
This is our best chance to gain lasting control over immigration, to restore confidence in the rule of law, and to uphold the American values of fairness and compassion, and hope for our Nation!
Leading the effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform would be a crowning achievement and a great legacy for you. But more importantly, it would be a great legacy for America and our nation's future generations.
On behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I want to reiterate our commitment to working with you to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
Thank you again for meeting with us."