Reyes after Obama meeting: Calls immigration reform a national security issue, disputes White House COS Emanuel's vote count
by Sito Negron
Posted on June 25, 2009
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, upon emerging from a meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama Thursday, said he believed the House had the votes to pass immigration reform with three basic elements: Border security, a path to citizenship, and a new guest worker program.
Thirty members of the U.S. House and Senate were invited to the bipartisan meeting, which was called a "shot in the arm" for prospects of immigration reform.
However, earlier in the day, the headlines generated by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel might have been called a punch in the gut. Emanuel was quoted earlier in the day as saying that the votes for immigration reform weren't there. Reyes and others said that Emanuel had his count wrong.
"I don’t know if anybody (at the meeting) was even aware of that comment. Everyone was engaged and positive in working toward making this happen," Reyes said. "Everyone recognized there was going to have to be compromise; the president was very clear that if either the left or the right demagogue the issue nothing would happen.
"In fact the chairwoman of the Hispanic caucus had an envelope with a whip list that said the votes are within reach to pass in the house."
The chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., said she showed the president a list of 210 House members ready to vote for comprehensive reform.
"I don't know where Rahm Emanuel is getting that information from," she said.
However, she said, the votes in the House are just a part of the process.
"The president was very forceful in saying he was seriously committed to getting it done," she said. "Once we can show the president is committed to getting this done and getting the Senate to act first, the House will follow and we will have a comprehensive reform bill."
On the Senate side, the Washington Post quoted the spokesman for Senate Majority leader U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev, as saying much the same as Reyes and Velázquez.
"The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill by a filibuster-proof margin and with strong bipartisan support in 2006, and we can do it again," spokesman Jim Manley was quoted as saying. "The White House should leave the vote counting to us."
Reyes said that when his turn came to speak at the meeting with the president, he framed the issue of comprehensive reform -- including a path to citizenship, the major sticking point for many Republicans and Democrats -- as one of national security.
"My statement was that the president above everybody else there knows the threats we're facing at this time in a very dangerous world. We cannot afford a shadow world of 9 (million) to 12 million people in our own country, and we know they're here, where those who would seek to harm us can move about at will," Reyes said. "From that perspective, it's irresponsible not to have comprehensive immigration reform."
Reyes and Velázquez said that one important step that happened today was Obama's appointment of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to head a group of lawmakers to develop a consensus plan.
While Emanuel's comments made headlines in the morning, Obama's comments after the meeting were more favorable. While Obama did not make any predictions or promises, the Associated Press reported that "Obama says he's committed to immigration reform."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Judiciary immigration subcommittee, was quoted by the AP as saying that "Today's meeting was a real shot in the arm in terms of getting immigration reform done."
Velázquez said that Schumer will introduce a bill to the Senate by the end of the summer. As to the future of reform, she said, "We have to be confident because we are not going to rest. Every single day this is our issue."
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