By Aamer Madhani
November 5, 2013
WASHINGTON — President Obama renewed his call Tuesday for Congress to get moving on an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws and asked business leaders from some of the USA's largest companies to help nudge Republicans along on the issue.
After weeks of focusing on the government shutdown and troubled rollout of the federal government's online health exchange, Obama signaled that he's ready to step up his immigration agenda.
On Tuesday, he gathered executives from top U.S. companies at the White House to discuss his push, and again reiterated his goal of getting legislation done by the end of the year.
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed an immigration bill earlier this year, but prospects in the GOP-controlled House have been seen as dim. But Obama expressed optimism and suggested that the votes are there if House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, bucks the most conservative wing of his party and cobbles together the votes from moderate Republicans and Democrats.
"What's been encouraging is, is that there are a number of House Republicans who have said, we think this is the right thing to do, as well," Obama said. "And it's my estimation that we actually have votes to get comprehensive immigration reform done in the House right now."
The president added: "The politics are challenging for the speaker and others, and we want to make it as easy for him as possible. This is not an issue where we're looking for a political win. This is one where we're looking for a substantive win for the U.S. economy and the American people and the businesses that are represented here."
The business executives who attended Tuesday's meeting with Obama included Roger Altman, founder and chairman of Evercore Partners; Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solution; Joe Echevarria, CEO of Deloitte; Marillyn Hewson, CEO and president of Lockheed Martin; Edward Rust, chairman and CEO of State Farm; Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott; Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of Blackstone; and Don Thompson, president and CEO of McDonalds.
"I continue to be hopeful that, with the leadership of many who are around this table who represent hundreds of thousands of employees and billions of dollars of assets, who are important in their communities all across the country ... joining up with law enforcement, clergy, citizens, to make the case, that ultimately folks up on Capitol Hill will do the right thing," Obama said.
Meanwhile, the president of the union representing 7,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, on Tuesday chastised several business executives and leading conservatives--including Republican strategist Karl Rove and GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson-- who have expressed support for the Senate bill or pushed for the House to come up with legislation to reconsider their position.
The ICE union has long had an uneasy relationship with the Obama administration, and has been particularly critical of the administration launching a program to allow some young illegal immigrants, known as "Dreamers," to avoid deportation. They have also complained about the Obama administration refocusing enforcement efforts on criminal immigrants and those who posed a security threat.
"It is a sad day in America when the political class in Washington, and groups that can deliver votes and money, have more influence in writing our immigration laws than everyday American citizens and law enforcement officers sworn to protect them," wrote Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council.
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