President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were “traitors” to Hispanics in the U.S. for dithering on immigration when Democrats controlled the presidency and both chambers of Congress, a Cuban-American television journalist now seeking a U.S. House seat said Thursday.
Maria Elvira Salazar, competing to represent Florida's 27th Congressional District, made the comments during an appearance on Fox News’ "Tucker Carlson Tonight."
She cited an interview Obama gave to Spanish-language network Univision in 2008, where he promised an immigration reform bill during his first year in office. Democrats had large majorities in the House and Senate at the time.
Obama told Univision’s Jorge Ramos that one of his first legislative priorities would be immigration reform.
"I cannot guarantee that it is going to be in the first 100 days," he said. "But what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I'm promoting. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible."
Salazar said Obama used his political capital to work on other efforts like ObamaCare despite the "magnificant opportunity" to address the immigration reform issue once and for all.
Ramos, in a follow-up interview in 2012, asked Obama about the earlier promise. Obama defended himself by mentioning other issues he was dealing with at the time, like "the economy on the verge of collapse."
Ramos told him, "A promise is a promise."
Marc A. Thiessen wrote in the Washington Post that, “If Obama really wanted to pass either the Dream Act or comprehensive immigration reform, Republicans were powerless to stop him. But he didn't do it.”
Salazar also pointed to the 1996 law President Clinton signed — called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act — that she said gave the “legal framework” for President Trump to separate families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“That’s why,” she said, “President Obama and Nancy Pelosi are traitors to Hispanics.”
The New York Times in 1996 reported that the law severely restricted the ability of federal courts to review decisions in deportation cases.
“In effect,” the paper reported, “it strips noncitizens of the right to take complaints against the [Immigration and Naturalization Service] agency to court.”
Vox wrote about the law in 2016 in an article titled, “The Disastrous, Forgotten 1996 Law that Created Today’s Immigration Problem.”
Clinton recently spoke out against the family separations, saying the policy “makes no sense” and was “immoral.”
Politifact reported that experts said the 1996 law did make it easier to remove legal immigrants based on crime convictions, but did not touch on separating families.
In late June, amid widespread outcry over U.S. policies that led to separations of migrant families along the border, a U.S. judge ordered that more than 2,500 children be reunited with their parents.
But hundreds remained apart after the deadline, often in cases in which parents had already been deported without their children.
Salazar said many Hispanics in the U.S. share values often associated with Republicanism, including a hands-off government.