OPINION: It's Time for the President to Lead on Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement this afternoon after President Bush addressed a group in Irvine, California, on immigration reform:

"It is amazing that on one of the most important issues facing the nation - immigration reform - President Bush has adopted a defensive approach that has left him on the sidelines rather than stepping up and using the power of his office to persuade Members of his own party to get behind a comprehensive, compassionate legislative solution. Today, unfortunately, the President once again seemed quite content to be a bystander on this issue.

"Last December, the House of Representatives passed with overwhelming Republican support an enforcement-only proposal that sought to make criminals out of millions of undocumented immigrants. The Bush Administration issued a policy statement that strongly 'urged the House to pass' that important legislation.

"Then, in early April, after the Senate Judiciary Committee reported a comprehensive, bipartisan bill and after weeks of consideration and debate in the Senate Floor, the Senate failed to reach an agreement to deal with immigration reform. The Senate Republican Leadership was unable to convince the right-wing of its conference to support a comprehensive proposal. Sadly, short-of urging Congress to 'work things out,' the President opted to stay on the sidelines during the Senate process.

"After the Republican Party spent weeks finger-pointing to distract the American people from the harsh House bill and the Senate Republicans' 'do-nothing' attitude, I had hoped that the President would finally weigh in and exert some leadership. But that did not happen again today.

"Make no mistake, Democrats agree with the President when he says that America can be both a welcoming society and a lawful society. However, the President seems unwilling to go beyond mere rhetoric.

"It has been more than four months since the President expressed his support for a House proposal that motivated thousands of fellow Americans to peacefully rally around the nation and demand a reasonable approach to the issue of immigration. It is time for the President to stand-up and take on this challenge in a comprehensive fashion."

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