LatinaLista -- The news that President Obama was holding yet another immigration meeting had most supporters of immigration reform rolling their eyes until it was announced that invitees were members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Everyone wanted to know if Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez would be given the White House welcome mat since he's embarked on a cross-country campaign strongly criticizing Obama's lack of attention towards immigration reform.
Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez stands at the podium while other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus join him.
Well, a press release issued by Gutierrez's office confirmed his presence and his reaction to the President's meeting:
"It was a productive meeting and there is no longer a debate over whether the President has broad discretionary powers when it comes to deportations," the Congressman said after the meeting. "The question is how broad and how generous the President chooses to be. The meeting was not about granting legal status to the 12 million or so undocumented immigrants, but rather how to prioritize deporting drug dealers and gangsters, but not to deport DREAM Act students and the families of U.S. citizens."
Unlike the prior meetings where the President invited business leaders, celebrities and a few high-profile Spanish network journalists who, for the most part, either didn't know the issue in enough depth to challenge him on his assertion that he didn't have the authority to do anything or didn't feel comfortable challenging him, this group was different.
They had the facts, they hear the stories firsthand from their constituents and they've been working on this issue for a long time. Unlike prior attendees, the President couldn't get away with telling this group to go back to the community and deliver his message of not being able to do anything.
For everyone who works and reports on the issue of immigration reform, it's long been known that there are a number of things the President can do which don't involve granting "amnesty" as critics like to say that's all supporters of the issue want.
Meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus now shows the President is getting serious about actively advocating for immigration reform -- some say concerned about the Latino vote as the 2012 campaign kicks off -- at the same time he's urging everyone to contact their representatives in Congress to start work on the issue.
What can he do next to show he means business?
There are a number of things the President can do but one suggestion is what about convening a special immigration reform committee? It would be comprised of national Latino community members who would actively work on the issue to make concrete suggestions to the President and Congress about not only how to effectively deal with the reality of the situation as it currently exists but prevent a repeat of what happened after the last time millions of undocumented immigrants were granted amnesty.
For any legislation to be effective it must have community input. Who is better to provide that than the people who know this issue inside and out and know firsthand what works and what doesn't?
The bottom line is that the majority of the Latino community is waiting to see the President take some concrete action beyond holding White House immigration meetings or making phone calls.
The time for real action has arrived if the President wants to convey he's truly serious about doing something about reforming current immigration practices.