President Obama met for more than an hour with a diverse group of municipal, state, civil-rights, labor, and religious leaders on Tuesday in an attempt to signal that he has not given up on pushing comprehensive immigration reform. The White House meeting offered no glimpse of the outlines of any potential reform package but focused on the best ways to sell reform to a skeptical country and a hostile Congress.
Participants included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
“We had about seven tables full of leaders from the business community, the political community, the faith community, and from labor,” said Eric Garcetti, president of the Los Angeles City Council, who said after the meeting that the president “made a very compelling case that he will not let this issue go away.”
Garcetti said that several “ad hoc alliances and partnerships” should result from the meeting.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, said that Obama asked the participants to “go out to the American public in unlikely pairs and give a central message, and that is that immigration reform is something that America needs and something America must do together.”
The meeting came within hours of a sharp warning from one of Obama’s fellow Chicago Democrats that the president needs to do more on immigration before he faces voters next year. Rep. Luis Gutierrez said he is “undecided” about supporting Obama’s reelection because of his unhappiness over the White House's failure to deliver on immigration.
“I want to support Barack Obama for reelection,” Gutierrez told MSNBC. “But the lack of progress on immigration reform and the lack of action that Barack Obama, our president, has—the discretion he has—is really making that job difficult for me.”