Congressional Hispanic Caucus leaders huddled with President Barack Obama on Tuesday to discuss immigration issues and the lame-duck Congress, but no clear strategy emerged.
Obama and Hispanic Democrats reiterated their support for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path for citizenship for immigrant youths illegally brought into the United States before they were 16, and both called for the House and Senate to vote on the measure before Congress adjourns for the year.
“We need a clear Democratic commitment in order to persuade Republicans, who are needed to get us over the finish line, to step forward,” said Rep. Luís Gutierrez, D-Ill.
The push for immigration legislation by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus comes as Latino Democrats select new leaders this week.
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, is running unopposed for the CHC chairmanship after Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, said he would seek the first vice chairmanship and support Gonzalez for the top spot.
No other candidate is publicly seeking the chairmanship.
A last-minute push for the DREAM Act comes as Republicans prepare to take control of the House and pick up seats in the Senate in the 112th Congress, which convenes in January.
Obama met at the White House with Gutierrez, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., the outgoing CHC chairwoman.
The Hispanic members asked the president’s help in seeking a vote on the DREAM Act before Congress adjourns.
Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said they would seek a vote on the measure in their respective chambers over Republican opposition.
Democrats failed to get the DREAM Act passed in the Senate earlier this year when they attached the immigration measure, as well as a repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays and lesbians in the military, to a defense spending bill.
Republicans who once favored the Dream Act opposed it as an addition to the defense bill, and further pressure is mounting on GOP members who favor the immigration measure from tea party activists who oppose it as an “amnesty.”
The DREAM Act, or Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, would require the affected youths to enter the armed forces or attend college for two years, clear a background check and have no criminal records to be eligible for citizenship.
Roughly 800,000 teens and young adults would be eligible, according to immigration rights groups.
The DREAM Act enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. It has since been caught up in the rancorous immigration reform debate.