If anyone was unclear about President Obama's distaste for the new Arizona immigration law, he cleared it up at his Cinco de Mayo celebration in the White House Rose Garden Wednesday night.
"We can’t start singling out people because of who they look like, or how they talk, or how they dress," the president said. "We can’t turn law-abiding American citizens, and law-abiding immigrants, into subjects of suspicion and abuse."
The law, which targets illegal immigrants in a way critics say is too broad, has repeatedly come under attack and been described by some as racial profiling.
In a visible protest to the Arizona law, the Phoenix Suns were wearing jerseys reading "Los Suns" for Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs. The president was clearly a supporter of the move, referencing the name change to celebration attendees, "I know that a lot of you would rather be watching tonight’s game -- the Spurs against “Los Suns” from Phoenix." The comment drew applause.
The president also repeated his view that illegal immigration is best dealt with on a federal level, through a legal overhaul, and he said that work should begin this year. "[I]t can be done. And it needs to be done... I want to begin work this year, and I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me because we’ve got to stay true to who we are-- a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."
That sense of urgency differs from the way some have interpreted Mr. Obama's remarks last week on the topic when he said, "It's a matter of political will. Now, look, we've gone through a very tough year, and I've been working Congress pretty hard. So I know there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue."
However, Mr. Obama's press secretary indicated to reporters Wednesday that the president didn't necessarily mean that work on the issue wouldn't at least start this year.
"You know, having looked at it and having talked to him about that, I don't -- I think the president said that immigration is a very hard issue that Congress might not finish this year. I happen to believe that -- well, I don't think there's anybody that would disagree with that."
Perhaps the issue is semantical.