Politics

Obama Appeals to Latinos During Congressional Hispanic Caucus Dinner

Barack Obama courted Latinos in 2008 with a vow to have a comprehensive immigration reform bill in his first year in office. Latinos, who voted overwhelmingly for him in his race against GOP contender Sen. John McCain, grew disenchanted after Obama not only failed to aggressively push for an immigration bill, but actually presided over record deportation rates. He blamed Republican intransigence for the lack of movement toward comprehensive immigration reform; Republicans said the president failed to reform immigration even when he had a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. Obama renewed his promise of immigration reform in his campaign for re-election, and Latinos again voted overwhelmingly for him. They say they will hold his feet to the fire more doggedly this time.

Barack Obama courted Latinos in 2008 with a vow to have a comprehensive immigration reform bill in his first year in office. Latinos, who voted overwhelmingly for him in his race against GOP contender Sen. John McCain, grew disenchanted after Obama not only failed to aggressively push for an immigration bill, but actually presided over record deportation rates. He blamed Republican intransigence for the lack of movement toward comprehensive immigration reform; Republicans said the president failed to reform immigration even when he had a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. Obama renewed his promise of immigration reform in his campaign for re-election, and Latinos again voted overwhelmingly for him. They say they will hold his feet to the fire more doggedly this time.  (AP)

WASHINGTON -- President Obama appealed to Hispanics on Wednesday to support Democrats in the November elections despite his failed promise to pass an immigration overhaul.

"Don't forget who is standing with you," the president said as he blamed Republicans for standing in the way of progress.

Less than two month before midterm elections that could prove disastrous for Democrats who run Congress, Obama acknowledged the disappointment among Latinos over the immigration issue and pledged to keep pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws to deal with border security and provide an eventual route to legal status for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

"You have every right to keep the heat on me and the Democrats, and I hope you do. That's how our political process works," Obama said the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's awards dinner. "But don't forget who is standing with you, and who is standing against you. Don't ever believe that this election coming up doesn't matter. "

Obama also promised to help win passage of a bill, known as the DREAM Act, that would allow young people who attend college or join the military to become legal U.S. residents.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said this week that he wants to attach the measure to an upcoming defense policy bill that the Senate could begin considering as soon as next week.

Obama cast Republicans as the bad guys in the tussle over immigration, saying some GOP senators who in the past had supported a comprehensive approach now oppose moving forward just to thwart his agenda.

"Now I know that many of you campaigned hard for me, and understandably you're frustrated that we have not been able to move this over the finish line yet. I am too," he said. "But let me be clear: I will not walk away from this fight. My commitment is to getting this done as soon as we can."

Some in the audience shouted "when?"

Obama urged Hispanics to remember who extended health care to millions of children, provided Pell Grants for Latino students and enacted credit card reform and created a new agency to protect consumers from predatory lending, including millions of immigrants who send money to relatives in their native countries.

"Don't forget who your friends are," he said. "No se olviden" -- Spanish for "Don't forget."

Obama was revisiting the immigration issue again on Thursday.

He has scheduled a White House meeting with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., to talk about the DREAM Act, as well as an immigration bill Menendez plans to introduce and repealing regulations that give local police authority to make immigration arrests.