Obama huddles with civil rights leaders

Obama huddles with civil rights leaders
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President Obama met with more than a dozen prominent civil and immigration rights activists Thursday ahead of his speech debuting a series of new steps that will extend deportation relief and work permits to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.

Attendees at the meeting included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, NAACP President Cornell Brooks and Al Sharpton. The MSNBC host has come under fire in recent days after The New York Times reported he and his companies were at one point subject to $4.5 million in state and federal tax liens.

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Also in attendance was Janet Murguía, the head of the National Council of La Raza. Murguía made waves earlier this year when she blasted Obama as the “deporter in chief” during a speech at her organization’s annual convention, ratcheting up pressure on the president to act.

She struck a different tone Thursday during an appearance on MSNBC following the address.

“I thought it was very compelling, very powerful and very reaffirming,” Murguía said. “For us, this moment is a milestone moment, I think for so many. It’s a victory for so many American families who have lived in the shadows with the burden of what that means in this country.”

The meeting also comes as a Missouri grand jury appears poised to reach a decision as early as Friday on whether a white police officer will face criminal charges in the shooting death of an unarmed black Ferguson teenager. Lawmakers and activists have warned that violence could follow the announcement, and Sharpton told the Times that he and Obama had discussed the possibility of unrest earlier this month.

The White House, for its part, said the meeting was to discuss the immigration actions Obama unveiled Thursday night.

“The president thanked the leaders for their dedication to immigration reform and looks forward to working together in the future to fully implement his actions as well as passing commonsense immigration reform,” a White House official said. “The leaders praised the president’s bold and decisive executive actions that will uphold our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”