"I cannot ignore those laws any more than I could ignore any of the other laws that are on the books," Obama said last week in a virtual town hall with Spanish-language media outlets.
Gutierrez, who represents a largely Hispanic district in Obama's hometown of Chicago, exemplifies the shift that's occurred among many immigration advocates. A liberal Democrat, Gutierrez has become a vocal critic of Obama on immigration, and on the House floor last week called Obama the "deporter in chief," parroting a nickname given to him a day earlier by the head of the National Council of La Raza, a powerful advocacy group.
Under Obama's leadership, almost 2 million people have been removed from the U.S.
So as grumblings among Latino members of Congress grew louder on Thursday, Obama invited Gutierrez and two other Congressional Hispanic Caucus members to a meeting at the White House that wasn't listed on Obama's public schedule. After the meeting disbanded, the White House said Obama still intends to pressure Republicans to pass an immigration overhaul, but would take another look at deportation policies in the meantime.
A top second-term priority for Obama, immigration appeared to be an area of potential bipartisan agreement coming out of the 2012 election, in which Republicans lost the Hispanic vote by a wide margin. The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill in June with strong bipartisan support that would create a pathway for citizenship for about 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, tighten border security, and establish new visa and enforcement programs.
But the measure stalled in the House, despite calls for lawmakers to act from Republican leaders, business groups, religious organizations and labor. Although House Republicans said they wanted to pursue their own, piecemeal approach, Speaker John Boehner has acknowledged that stands little chance of happening this year, as Congress becomes consumed with midterm elections.
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