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Working Together to Create a 21st Century Immigration System

Part of President Obama's plan to help America win the future is reforming our immigration laws to make sure the world's best talent can live and do business in America.

President Obama remains deeply committed to reforming our immigration laws to meet our 21st Century economic and security needs.  In his State of the Union address, the President asked Republicans and Democrats to work with him to take on this issue.  While we all know the debate will be tough, the American people expect their leaders in Washington to tackle difficult issues. The President cannot fix our broken system on his own.

Yesterday, I joined the President at an important meeting with a broad group of business, law enforcement, faith, and elected leaders from across the country.  The President was joined by several members of his Cabinet, including Secretaries Janet Napolitano, Hilda Solis, Ken Salazar, and Attorney General Eric Holder, all of whom have been actively engaged in the Administration’s efforts to advance legislation to improve our system in the key areas that they oversee.

The President made a strong case that immigration reform needs to be a priority, not just for him but for all of the people in the room.  He heard their concerns and got feedback on how to advance legislative efforts to get the job done. The President urged them to lead serious and civil discussions in their sectors and around the country to help create the space for congressional action.  I hope others will join the President in bringing the debate to their own communities.

President Barack Obama meets with a group of business, law enforcement, faith, and current and former elected leaders to discuss immigration, in the State Dining Room of the White House, April 19, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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It was inspiring to hear about the important work already underway – work that will build the momentum for immigration reform critical to our economic future, global competitiveness, and national security interests. It was also a reminder of all the work that needs to be done. 

As we work toward immigration reform, the Administration will continue to look for ways to improve our legal immigration system, secure the borders, and enhance our enforcement strategy so that it is smarter and more effective at removing criminals and prosecuting unscrupulous employers. But enforcement alone will not solve our immigration problem.  We need reform that affirms our history as both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants – and to do that, we need to work together to pass legislation.

Immigration reform has always been a bipartisan issue, and the President believes it can and should be again.  Democrats, Republicans and Independents working together can enact meaningful, lasting reforms and make the right choices for our future.

Melody Barnes is an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.