President Barack Obama has marshaled the likes of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the mayors of New York and San Antonio and Philadelphia’s police commissioner in an attempt to show wide and varied support for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.
The invitees are among a bipartisan group expected to meet with Obama at the White House on Tuesday afternoon to discuss revamping the immigration system.
Besides Schwarzenegger, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who also served as Washington, D.C., police chief, are among those invited.
In a statement issued late Monday, the White House said the president is holding the meeting to discuss the importance of fixing the nation’s “broken immigration system” to meet the country’s 21st century economic and national security needs.
The White House said business and religious leaders, as well as current and former public officials from across the political spectrum were to be invited. The statement was attributed to a White House senior official who was not further identified.
In a Monday afternoon interview with Dallas television station WFAA, Obama underscored the need for bilateral support to set new immigration policy.
“The question is going to be, are we going to be able to find some Republicans who can partner with me and others to get this done once and for all instead of using it as a political football,” he said.
Obama has been under fire from Latino and immigration activists and Spanish-language media for failing to take up immigration in his first term. He has been consistently reminded of his campaign promise to address immigration early in his administration.
Although Obama has repeatedly said he is committed to immigration overhaul, the deportation of a record 393,000 immigrants last year and other enforcement tactics during his administration have drawn criticism in the immigrant and Hispanic communities.
Over the weekend, Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who helped rally Hispanic voters to support Obama during the 2008 campaign, told a Chicago crowd he was not sure he could back Obama in 2012 if the president did not step up immigration changes. Last week, 22 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Obama asking him to delay deportations of young undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country by their parents.