Obama says immigration shouldn't be used as 'political football'
By MICHELLE ROBERTS
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, addressing a rally in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood in this majority Hispanic city, said Tuesday that the issue of immigration should not be used as “a political football.”
Security of the border has to be combined with a pathway to citizenship for people who are already here, he said to cheers at an event in advance of the hotly contested March 4 primary against Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Let's solve it instead of trying to score cheap political points,” Obama said.
The nation must secure its borders and punish employers who recruit illegal immigrants and pay them unfair wages, he said.
“It's not going to just involve building a big fence all the way across the border. That's not going to work,” said Obama, addressing an issue that has angered many border residents.
While some physical barriers will be needed, better monitoring should also be used, and those who are already in the United States should be encouraged to come “out of the shadows,” Obama said.
Illegal immigrants should have a pathway to citizenship, provided that they register, pay fines and learn English. Rounding up and deporting all illegal immigrants is impractical, he said.
Before he addressed the crowd, some chanted “Si, se puede!” the Spanish equivalent of the “Yes, we can!” chant that has become a hallmark of his campaign and the cry used by the late Latino activist Cesar Chavez.
Obama was scheduled to hold another rally at Houston's Toyota Center, a 19,000-seat sports arena, Tuesday night. His campaign said it had given out about 20,000 tickets for that event.
He began his first campaign swing through Texas with a roundtable discussion focused on his plan to address the growing number of foreclosures. He has called for the creation of a $10 billion fund to help prevent foreclosures and legislation to require more disclosure from lenders.
A local couple with foster kids and a single nurse were asked to discuss the problems they've had with their lenders, providing a chance for Obama to talk about his foreclosure prevention plan.
“I know both the African-American and Hispanic community have been disproportionately affected,” he said, noting the practices of some subprime lenders.
People began lining up hours ahead of the rally, and he greeted the overflow crowd outside the amphitheater before taking questions from a young and ethnically diverse crowd.
Exit polling numbers from earlier primaries indicated that Hispanic voters were more likely to favor Clinton, a trend some analysts have attributed to the long relationship Clinton and her husband have with the Hispanic community.
Clinton has campaigned solely on the Texas-Mexico border and San Antonio, so far leaving the rest of Texas to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to campaign in. Obama's Texas trip includes stops in Houston and Dallas before he and Hillary Clinton debate in Austin on Thursday.
Obama last made a stop in Texas for a pair of fundraisers in November, when most political watchers assumed Super Tuesday would crown a Democratic nominee and Texas' later primary would little matter.
Texas has 228 Democratic presidential delegates, 126 of which will be apportioned based on the March 4 primary. The remaining 102 get awarded at a state convention in a caucus in June, but both candidates see the elections in Texas and Ohio on the same day as an opportunity to pull away in the closely contested race.
A CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted last week indicated that the race remains very tight. The poll of likely Texas Democratic voters found 50 percent favored Clinton while 48 percent favored Obama, easily within the margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 points.