Transcript of Pelosi, Garcia and Immigration Leaders Press Conference Today

Mar 21, 2014
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Miami, FL. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Joe Garcia (D-FL), and immigration reform leaders held a press conference today on the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform after they participated in a roundtable discussion on America’s broken immigration system.  Below are the Leader’s opening remarks, followed by a question and answer session: 

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone.  First, I want to thank the people of this district for sending Joe Garcia to the Congress of the United States. 

[Applause]

The first day he set foot in Congress, since day one – even before, actually – he has been a strong advocate for what makes our country great.  And what makes our country great is the constant reinvigoration of newcomers to our country – with their determination, their optimism, their courage to make the future better for their families.  That is what our Founders had in mind, that is why they knew our country would last well into the future because of that commitment to the future.  He subscribes to what many of us say there: that every newcomer to America with those hopes, those dreams, that aspiration, that courage, that optimism makes America more American.

So again, recognizing the strength of our country in creating jobs, protecting our environment in so many ways, Joe Garcia, a patriotic Floridian, a great Member of Congress, relentless, persistent, determined, dissatisfied.  That is how I would describe his actions in going forward in addition to being effective, necessary, and recognizing the urgency.  And that urgency is what we saw here today at Florida International University.  And I, too, want to commend the university, President Rosenberg, Dean Acosta thank you for your leadership, for lifting up kids with education, which has always been a priority for immigrant communities. 

What I heard here today was very inspiring.  It helped document the urgency.  It helped document the need for this bill in order to not only to have comprehensive immigration reform, which we have been fighting for – for a long time – in a bipartisan way, it also talked about the urgency that springs from the deportations that are taking place which in my view are far too many and not exercising the discretion that we think should be exercised. 

But having said that, the best way to solve all of the issues, there is one answer to the many problems – whether it’s the families of DREAMers, the families of men and women in the armed services, whether it’s people who came here with all of that determination and overstayed, whatever the challenge is, the answer is comprehensive immigration reform.  And what’s so exciting about it, almost everybody is for this.  They passed it in a bipartisan way in the United States Senate. 

Every day, we work with BBB – the Bible, the religious community, every Protestant denomination, the Jewish community, Muslim community, everybody, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the very stong Evangelical movement both the minority community and just across the board.  Everybody understands that who we are as a nation, are people who respect the dignity and work of every person.  And that’s what this bill will enable us to do. 

Whether it’s the business community, as Joe said, south Florida will benefit greatly for what it means to the community, but this is a state of agriculture, of high tech.  It’s a state of tourism, I’m sure you’ve noticed that – and many other commercial interests not only want this, but need this to happen.  That is why I am so pleased that the President put in his budget the impact of immigration reform.  It will save us hundreds of billions of dollars, reduce the deficit, increase the rate of growth of our GDP.  So there are economic reasons, there are faith-filled values reasons. 

And the third be, the badges – the law enforcement community is saying: “we are not immigration officers, pass this bill.”  That is why we have leaders from the law enforcement community coming to our meetings, testifying – whether we have rump sessions or whatever it is – for comprehensive immigration reform.  And we have the American people, and we have a very strong manifestation of it in the Fast4Famliies that are going around the country challenging the conscience of America to be America, advocating with individual Members of Congress.  Nothing is more eloquent to a Member of Congress than the voice of his or her constituent.  And as they interact with constituents in districts who in turn interact with the Members, just give us a vote.  Give us a vote.  Bipartisan bill in the Senate.  Bipartisan support on H.R. 15 that Congressman Garcia has taken the lead on.  Just give us a vote.  And give us a vote now. 

And we have tried – I am respectful to the Speaker; I believe that he is a person of good faith on this subject and that he wants to bring up a vote.  We need to help him do that.  And there is nothing new about that.  “Public sentiment is everything,” President Lincoln said.  We may all share the values, we may all understand the urgency, but we have to do everything in our power to go on record.  Give us a vote.

I believe there is nothing more important that we can do for our country right now than to pass immigration reform – for what it means to people, what it means to our country, what it means to our economy.  And when we do that, we will, again, be true to the vows of our Founders about to who we are as a country.  And again, it has to be bipartisan in order to pass.  But we’ve waited long enough, we’ve tried in every bipartisan way possible, this is one other bipartisan tactic that we want to use: Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, ask the Speaker to give us a vote. 

And so, I am very honored to be here, not only with Congressman Garcia – these are our VIP’s: the people we are working for; thank you…

[Applause]

But also to be here with Julio Calderon, who we will be hearing from.  His story, these stories, are so compelling.  And it is my honor now to yield to a person who has been a leader in so many ways to help the people of our country, and now, risking his own health once again, on another fast – the Fast4Families caravan, motorcade; what are we calling it?  Bus trip? – across America, Eliseo Medina.  He is just so wonderful.

[Applause]

***

Q:  Knowing that in reality the possibilities of passing immigration reform in Congress are very limited, the new strategy is to ask the President for an executive order to at least stop the deportations.  How do you feel about that?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I have publicly spoken out against deportations and believe there is more discretion at the executive level, presidential level to stop them.  But let’s not take our eye off the ball.  The ball is passing comprehensive immigration reform, which would stop all deportations.

[Applause]

In the meantime, there is debate as to how much discretion the President would have.  But the fact is, the President’s discretion does not become the law of the land.  It becomes the practice for the moment.  And that could be changed by any president in a couple of years.  So the fact is, the real protection is in the law.  We must pass the law.  We think there is more prosecutorial discretion that should be enacted by the President.  He already has done DACA and the Republicans have said that they could sue him by breaking the law for doing DACA. 

Now that’s not all Republicans, that’s just some Republicans.  But they all voted for it on the floor – to be able to sue the President for violations of the law; for example, DACA and prosecutorial discretion. 

We want him to do everything he can.  We want him to push the limit, but the fact is, the answer to the problem is to pass the bill.  I would put in order: let’s get a bill, have the votes in a bipartisan way – it has always been done in a bipartisan way; it’s the only way it can be done.  We passed the DREAM Act in the House of Representatives, but because you needed 60 votes in the Senate, we got 55 and it didn’t become the law of the land.  That’s probably the easiest vote people can take.  But the fact is, we just need to say: “People are watching, they know the difference.”  Plenty of Republicans, in a courageous way, have come forward and said they would support the bill.  Let’s not have them walk the plank and not have what we need.

But I’m proud to stand here with Julio.  Anybody else here undocumented who wants to come forward?  Anybody else who is?  Because Joe and I proudly – and I do in my district – stand with our undocumenteds when they come forward.  Imagine the courage that takes. 

So in any event, that is why we are so proud that Julio was – we want the President to know and everyone to know that we proudly stand with the courage, optimism, and hope of these folks, and that we want to do everything in our power to make sure that that change takes place.  

Give us a vote.  Give us a vote – that’s the message of the Fast4Families.  Any other questions?

Audience Members.  Immigration reform now!

[Applause]

Q:  What would you say is the most difficult issue facing Republicans and immigration reform?

Leader Pelosi.  Let’s say this.  The President at the State of the Union Address extended a hand of friendship to the Speaker and said: “I want to work…” – even though we’ve been trying for a long time, we want to continue to work in a bipartisan way.  I believe, the Speaker in his heart, and as Eliseo said, in his heart, and we want to convince him in his head that this is something that should be done.

I have a whole list of things as why I think they are not – some in his Conference are not supportive of this, but I’ll leave it to you to find out from them what those things are.  We are going to emphasize the positive and the bipartisan nature of how we go forward.

Any other questions?

Congressman Garcia.  We have one more question.

Q:  Well, I guess, how soon do you think we will be able to get a vote?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, this just depends on – President Lincoln said: “Public sentiment is everything.”  The people spoke in the election.  Over 70 percent of the immigrant community – whether it’s Latino, Asian Pacific Americans, or whatever, that doesn't mean they are all immigrants.  Their families have been here for over 200 years, far earlier than many of the people who are opposing immigration reform have been in this country. 

So, it just depends on the outside mobilization.  Inside maneuvering,  under the leadership of Joe Garcia, as I said effective from the start, we have 199 co-sponsors of the bill with three Republicans, with three Republicans. 

We are grateful for those,  but we need more.  And the fact is that we know there are about 30 Republicans who would vote for a bill if it came forward. 

So, the answer to the question lies in mind to the Speaker of the House – awesome power to just call a vote.  We don't necessarily think he'll call a vote on H.R. 15.  We wish he would because it's a compromise of a compromise of a compromise.  I mean, it's not the bill we would've written but it's a bill that does the job for now. 

But to call the vote on something that takes us down the path, that could happen in a matter of weeks.  It must happen in a matter of months because the opportunity will be missed.  And as Julio said, we all know, the Senate bill dies at the end of this session and opportunity to build upon that is gone as well. 

Congressman Garcia.  I want to thank all of you for being here.  I want to thank the families for coming here.

[Applause]

And in particular, I want to thank Speaker Pelosi for coming to Florida International's main campus. 

Leader Pelosi.  Thank you.  Thank you, Joe Garcia.

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