President Obama plans to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Tuesday to discuss the flaws in the immigration system and how to address them.
The White House schedule for Tuesday says the meeting will be about "the importance of fixing our nation's broken immigration system to meet our 21st century economic and national security needs so that America can win the future."
This would be the third meeting in as many weeks that the president has held with a variety of leaders to talk about immigration, which political experts say could emerge as one of the most divisive topics in the 2012 election campaign.
Two weeks ago, Obama met with a group of mainly advocates of an immigration reform plan that would tighten enforcement as well as provide a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria. He told them he remains committed to reforming immigration.
Last week Obama summoned Latino celebrities to the White House, where he told them that people with high profiles such as they could elevate the discussion on immigration.
Latino leaders across the country have been increasingly critical of Obama's failure to deliver on his promise during his presidential campaign that there would be a comprehensive immigration reform measure in his first year in office.
The president says that he cannot make significant changes to the U.S. immigration system without the support of Republicans in Congress.
But members of Hispanic Congressional Caucus, made up mostly of Democrats, argue that the president does have tools at his disposal for approaching some aspects of immigration in a less hard-line manner.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Charles Gonzalez, D-Tex., who is chairman of the caucus, both say that Obama can use the powers of his office to halt the deportation of parents of U.S.-born children, as well as of undocumented children who were brought here by their parents.
“The CHC has previously suggested to the White House that they create a broad coalition of business leaders, clergy and community leaders who recognize the need for Congress to act,” a CHC statement said, adding that comprehensive immigration reform “is in the best economic interest of our nation.”
But the statement also said the president can take “administrative action which can immediately address the most grievous shortcomings of our broken immigration system."
An example of that administrative action is the deferral of deportations on humanitarian grounds. Thousands of undocumented people have their deportations deferred every year for various reasons. Many of them obtain work permits while their deportation is on hold.
Those who support strict immigration enforcement, however, assail any program that gives a break to undocumented immigrants. People in that camp, which includes Republicans who have leadership positions on immigration committees in the House of Representatives, where the GOP has a majority, say any lenient treatment of undocumented immigrants amount to "amnesty."
In recent weeks, such groups have been particularly critical of deportation deferrals.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached email@example.com
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