National Press Club

Becerra Pushes for Changes in Immigration Policy

May 7, 2009 | By Mike Soraghan

Rep. Xavier Becerra said at an NPC Lawmakers breakfast Wednesday that addressing the nation's immigration dilemma is key to solving many of the nation's other most pressing problems, like health care and education.

"I don't know how you do true health care reform without helping all the people who live here," said Becerra, vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, at the members-only breakfast in the McClendon Room. "You're not going to solve these problems until you deal with all the broken parts."

Becerra a California Democrat who is the only Hispanic in senior House leadership, praised President Obama's approach to immigration, but said the burden falls on Congress to press the president on the issue.

Becerra, said he applauds Obama's approach to the immigration issue, including a focus on employers who recruit illegal workers.

"I'm extremely optimistic. But it's incumbent upon Congress to provide wind under his wings so he knows he can make the push to get this done," Becerra said. "We're not going to let him go on that."

In his press conference late last month, Obama said he expected to see an immigration process "moving this year." But he set no goals of completing it this year. If it comes up next year, it's likely to get pulled into the 2010 election debate. Or it could wait until the next year, when Obama will still be president, but ratios in Congress will be different.

On health care, Becerra indicated support for a single-payer system, which is considered to be off the table in Congress. But the senior member of the Ways and Means Committee said a "public option" that covers people who can't afford private insurance would be essential "if you want health care reform to work."