But the meeting came with many pro-immigration reform groups pushing for Obama to do more unilaterally, with the GOP-controlled House unlikely to take up the issue in a midterm election year.
“This morning, the President met with faith leaders in the Oval Office to discuss the importance of taking action to pass commonsense immigration reform,” said the White House in a statement.
“The faith leaders shared with the President stories about the impact the failure to fix the immigration system has on families in their congregations and communities. The President expressed deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system."
The White House added that Obama “emphasized that while his Administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform, and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress.”
According to a report from the Associated Press, one of the participants, Luis Cortes, the president of Esperanza, a Hispanic faith-based organization, told reporters that Obama said he would not take action to change immigration laws on the books, leaving that to Congress.
Immigration reform groups want Obama to take more steps to unilaterally halt deportation, but Obama has said that real change must come on Capitol Hill and that any executive actions won’t fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
A bipartisan immigration reform bill passed the Senate last year, but the effort has stalled in the House, where conservative lawmakers say the focus should be on border security first and question whether Obama is committed to enforcing laws on the books.
“The President and the religious leaders expressed their longstanding commitment to immigration reform as a moral imperative and pledged to continue to urge Congress to act on reform as soon as possible,” said the White House.
Attending the meeting along with Obama and Cortes were senior advisor Valerie Jarrett; Melissa Rogers, the president’s director of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships; Dr. Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association; general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church JoAnne Lyon; Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship executive coordinator Suzii Paynter; and Dieter Uchtdorf from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.