Last Friday, I met with leaders of Catholic Charities USA from across the country to discuss President Obama’s continued commitment to comprehensive immigration reform as well as our progress strengthening immigration policy. Rebecca Carson, Chief of Staff at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Seth Grossman, Chief of Staff at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of General Counsel joined me for an informative discussion that was a part of the Community Leaders Briefing Series.
Each week, the White House opens its doors to 150 community leaders from across the country to take part in day long briefing as part of the Community Leaders Briefing Series. The briefing series is a unique opportunity for grassroots and local leaders to hear directly from White House and Administration officials on issues that are affecting their communities and to learn more about the President’s priorities and initiatives from the Administration officials that work on them every day. In return, Administration officials hear directly from community leaders about what is going on at the local level.
Catholic Charities leaders communicated to us the current efforts in their own communities to help immigrant communities, including assistance with learning English and the naturalization process, and with understanding the Administration priorities of promoting integration, preventing immigrant communities from being exploited by those who unlawfully practice immigration law, and focusing on their enforcement resources on removing those immigrants who pose a public safety threat to American communities.
Our roundtable discussion was very productive. It provided an opportunity to brainstorm different ways in which we could continue working together to help immigrant communities become a more vibrant part of American communities, which helps strengthen these communities as a whole. We also had a very constructive dialogue on how to build support for meaningful legislative reforms to our immigration laws. Leaders shared insight into their efforts to educate the community. One leader remarked that it takes one-on-one conversations with immigrants and trusted leaders to help explain the complexities of our immigration system and the day-to-day problems that comprehensive immigration reform would help fix.
Community leaders will return home better armed to share information on the Obama Administration’s immigration priorities and to connect individuals to the federal immigration policies and programs. But most importantly, White House and Administration officials gained a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities that immigrant-service providers confront every day.
To learn more, read the President’s blueprint for immigration reform.
Felicia Escobar is Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Domestic Policy Council