With more legislatures taking public frustration over immigration-related problems into state-level hands, President Barack Obama renewed his commitment to putting his political weight and the resources of his administration behind a federal approach to reform. But as he told participants in a White House meeting April 19, the responsibility for legislation to fix the multilayered immigration mess lies with Congress. Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, one of dozens of religious, political, business and civic leaders who attended the White House meeting, said on April 21 that he came away from the session more optimistic about the possibility of getting a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed than he was when he arrived. But he acknowledged that after years of working with similar diverse coalitions on the subject, "I've been there too many times to get my hopes up." Comprehensive immigration reform proposals generally include some enforcement provisions; expanded ways for low-skilled workers to come legally into the United States; changes in family-based immigration procedures; and a path to legalization for the estimated 11 million people who are in the United States illegally. As the group gathered in Washington, Georgia's legislative staff was putting the finishing touches on a bill passed April 14 that would broaden the powers of local police to enforce immigration laws and require businesses to use an online verification system when hiring. The bills also would create criminal penalties for assisting people who are in the country illegally. Gov. Nathan Deal said he would sign the bill when it reached his desk, in spite of the ongoing protests against the legislation, including by the state's Catholic bishops.
Federal Immigration Changes Respond to States