President Obama on Wednesday met with a group of dreamers in an effort to highlight the human consequences of a bill Republicans in Congress are trying to pass that would roll back the presidents immigration policies.
The legislation would provide funding for the Department of Homeland Security but would also overturn Obamas recent executive actions on immigration that seek to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. It would also end the presidents Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows dreamers who came to the United States as children to stay and work.
So often in the immigration debate, its an abstraction, Obama told reporters during his meeting with the dreamers. We dont really think about the human consequences of our position. And part of the reason why I wanted to hear from these young people today and part of the reasons why Ive heard from young dreamers in the past is because its a constant reminder to me of why this is important.
The six dreamers who met with the president in the Oval Office of the White House were Steven Arteaga, Jean Yannick Diouf, Blanca Gamez, Maria Praeli, Rishi Singh, and Bati-amgalan Tsoftsaikhan.
They are among the more than 610,000 dreamers whove been granted deportation reprieve and work permits under the DACA program, which Obama announced in 2012. In November, as part of his executive actions on immigration, Obama announced he would expand the DACA program to benefit more undocumented young immigrant.
During their meeting with the president, the dreamers talked about how the DACA program transformed their lives. Some said the program made it possible for them to go to college.
These kids are American just like us and they belong here and we want to do right by them, Obama said of the six dreamers, adding that they represent the very best that this country has to offer.
The president also noted these and other dreamers would be subject to eventual deportation under the DHS funding bill introduced by House Republicans that would roll back the presidents immigration policies, including the DACA program.
The bill was approved in the House last month, but it failed to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate on Tuesday. It now goes back to the House where Republicans will decide if theyll keep the immigration measures or propose a clean DHS funding bill.
On Wednesday, Obama repeated his threat to veto the legislation if it includes measures to undo his immigration policies.
I want to be as clear as possible, he said. I will veto any legislation that got to my desk that took away the chance of these young people who grew up here and who are prepared to contribute to this country that would prevent them from doing so. And I am confident that I can uphold that veto.
Besides dreamers, Obama said the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who stand to be protected from deportation under his executive actions would also be at risk of deportation under the bill by Republicans. He called on members of Congress to think about all the immigrants who are already here and are making contributions to the country. Lets be true to our tradition as a nation of immigrants and as a nation of laws, he said.
Obama also condemned Republicans in Congress for threatening to block funding for DHS because they disagree with his immigration policies.
Theres no logic to that position, the president said. Particularly for Republicans who claim that they are interested in strong border security, why would you cut off your nose to spite your face by defunding the very operations that are involved in making sure that weve got strong border security, particularly at a time when weve got real concerns about countering terrorism?
Obama ended with a message for undocumented immigrants who will qualify for either the extended DACA program or the new deferred action program for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
To all the dreamers who are out there and all those who qualify for my executive action moving forward, I want you to know that I am confident in my ability to implement this program over the next two years, and Im confident that the next president and the next Congress and the American people will ultimately recognize why this is the right thing to do, he said. So Im going to want all of you to get information so you can sign up if you qualify.