- (Photo: AP Images / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama made an appearance Thursday morning at the annual National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, where he assured the crowd that he is doing his part to try to fix the country's immigration system.
But he stressed that Congress and the faith community have to play their parts as well in order to "get this done."
"I'll keep doing my part; I'll keep pushing and working with Congress. But the only way we are going to get this done is by building a widespread movement for reform," he said in his address in Washington, D.C. "That's why I'm asking you to keep preaching and persuading your congregations and communities ... to keep on activating, getting involved, mobilizing.
"That's why we all need to keep praying."
While the Hispanic community expected swift comprehensive immigration reform when Obama took office, they continue to wait more than halfway into his presidency.
And with families being broken up, pastors are pressing Obama to act quickly.
Dr. Alberto Delgado, senior pastor of Alpha & Omega Church in Miami, Fla., expressed disappointment that Obama has not pushed any laws through yet and called the separation of families "painful and immoral."
Obama recognized the urgency of the situation for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
"It's a moral imperative when kids are being denied the chance to go to college or serve their military because of the actions of their parents," he told prayer breakfast attendees. "It's a moral imperative when millions of people live in the shadows or [are] made vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses with nowhere to turn if they are wronged.
"It's a moral imperative when simply enforcing the law may mean inflicting pain on families who are just trying to do the right thing by their children."
At the same time, he stressed that he cannot bypass Congress.
"What I can do is sign a law. What you can do is champion a law. What we can do together is make comprehensive immigration reform the law of the land," he said.
Last year, Obama pushed to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act so that undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the country before they were 16 could be eligible for conditional non-immigrant status.
But the legislation failed to pass in the Senate in December. Obama has called the action a deep disappointment.
On Wednesday, however, Democrats reintroduced the DREAM Act to allow young people a path to citizenship, as long as they attend college or join the military.
"We're not giving up," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), according to The Los Angeles Times.
As Congress takes up the immigration debate again, Obama stressed on Thursday the need to change minds and change votes in order to move forward while making clear the the U.S. is "a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws."
"This is a subject that can expose raw feelings and feed our fears of change. It can be tempting to think that those coming to America today are somehow different from us," he said.
"We need to not have amnesia about how we populated this country," he added. "I'm asking you to help us recognize ourselves in one another."