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At governor's meeting at White House, President Joe Biden urges support on immigration reform

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed governors from all 50 states to Washington, D.C., on Friday, during which he tried to solicit help passing immigration reform legislation. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed governors from all 50 states to Washington, D.C., on Friday, during which he tried to solicit help passing immigration reform legislation. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed governors from all 50 states to Washington, D.C., on Friday, during which he tried to solicit help passing immigration reform legislation.

"If I was smart I'd leave right now," Biden said jokingly during his opening remarks.

"My Republican friends, I've got bad news for you, I actually like working with you," Biden said.

"Governors know the measure of success isn't how many partisan points we score, it's 'did we fix the problem?'" Biden said.

The president waited until the end of his address before broaching the topic of border security.

Gov. Spencer Cox, R-Utah, and chairman of the National Governors Association, delivers remarks as Vice President Kamala Harris (L) looks on during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting the White House Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
Gov. Spencer Cox, R-Utah, and chairman of the National Governors Association, delivers remarks as Vice President Kamala Harris (L) looks on during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting the White House Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

"I have one other piece of unfinished business I want to talk about, the border. My first day in office as president, the first bill I sent, I sent up a comprehensive plan to fix the immigration system. And I think you all have [it] at your table if I'm not mistaken," Biden told the governors, before reading from a fact sheet related to that bill.

"It included funding for high-tech border security, legal pathways for dreamers, addressed causes of why so many people are fleeing to the southern border to avoid violence, corruption, political instability and natural disasters."

First lady Dr. Jill Biden delivers remarks during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in the White House Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
First lady Dr. Jill Biden delivers remarks during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in the White House Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

Biden then touched on a "long proud history" when it comes to bipartisan cooperation on immigration reform in Congress.

"But something changed over time, our laws and our resources haven't kept up with our immigration system and it's broken. And our politics has failed to fix it."

President Joe Biden said Friday he believes there is enough bipartisan support in the House and Senate to pass an existing piece of immigration reform legislation that is currently stalled. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
President Joe Biden said Friday he believes there is enough bipartisan support in the House and Senate to pass an existing piece of immigration reform legislation that is currently stalled. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

Biden went on to detail aspects of a bill produced by a group of bipartisan Senators he convened to tackle the immigration reform issue. That legislation would see the hiring of 1,300 border patrol agents, 375 immigration judges, 1,600 asylum officers, and over 100 "cutting-edge inspection machines" to be used to detect smuggling of the illicit opioid fentanyl. The bill is currently stalled in Congress with House Speaker Mike Johnson refusing to let it get to the floor.

Biden told the governors he believes there is adequate support to pass the bill.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (L) talks with California Gov. Gavin Newson (R) during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in the East Room of the White House on Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (L) talks with California Gov. Gavin Newson (R) during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in the East Room of the White House on Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

"There are governors in this room who support it (legislation)," Biden said, calling it the strongest border deal the United States has ever seen.

"Strong minorities oppose it but a significant majority in the House and the Senate support it. Doing nothing is not an option. Compromise is part of the process.

Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks with Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in the East Room of the White House on Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks with Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in the East Room of the White House on Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

"So if this matters to you, it matters to your state, tell your members of Congress ... show a little spine."

The governors will wrap up their trip to Washington with a dinner invitation at the White House Saturday night.

"We are determined to set an example for the country of bipartisan cooperation. We have a session today devoted entirely to healing the partisan divide and finding more constructive ways to disagree," Gov. Spencer Cox, R-Utah, told his fellow governors, before Biden spoke.

"We cannot make progress on any of the challenges I mentioned unless we solve the overarching challenge, the challenge of toxic polarization that is tearing our country apart," Cox said.

First Lady Jill Biden also spoke at the gathering, sharply criticizing congressional inaction in her remarks.

"The majority is an exhausted one, as Gov. Cox often points out," said Jill Biden, "They're frustrated by a Congress that is often mired in gridlock, and those who too often treat government like a sport."

The first lady said the gathering was a good example of political cooperation.

"You show that we can turn down the volume, stop the shouting, and actually listen to one another, that, yes, as Governor Cox says, we can disagree without being disagreeable," Jill Biden continued.

Vice President Kamala Harris also praised the bipartisanship of the event.

"To all the governors here today, thank you for your work and for continuing to uphold important traditions, including the important tradition of us working together across party lines," Harris said, "I think this is one of the few remaining professional organizations among elected leaders where there is meaningful bipartisan work that is happening."