By Sam Youngman - 06/19/09 11:30 AM EDT
As some Hispanic groups have begun to question President Obama's commitment to passing immigration reform, the president said Friday morning that he remains dedicated to signing such legislation.
Obama, addressing the Hispanic prayer breakfast for Esperanza, told the group he intends to uphold "America's tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."
The president has come under fire from some groups recently for twice postponing a meeting with congressional members on the issue. The White House has explained the two delays as a matter of scheduling conflicts, and the meeting has been rescheduled for later this month.
On Friday, Obama again outlined his vision for reform, arguing, much like his predecessor, that "those who wish to become citizens, we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line behind those who played by the rules."
"That is the fair, practical and promising way forward, and that's what I'm committed to passing as president of the United States," Obama said.
Wading into the hot-button issue that fiercely divided the Republican Party in 2006, the president said "the American people believe in immigration, but they also believe that we can't tolerate a situation where people come to the United States in violation of the law, nor can we tolerate employers who exploit undocumented workers in order to drive down wages."
"That's why we're taking steps to strengthen border security, and we must build on those efforts," Obama said. "We must also clarify the status of millions who are here illegally, many who have put down roots."
Highlighting the urgency with which Hispanic leaders view immigration reform, Rev. Jose Eugenio Hoyos, who introduced the president, said: "We want to see change in immigration reform, today and not tomorrow."