Losing Ground With Hispanics, Obama Offers Immigration Plan

Losing ground with Hispanics, Obama offers immigration plan

By Julie Mason
The Washington Examiner (DC), July 2, 2010

As polling shows a drop in his support among Hispanics, President Obama issued a strong new call for an overhaul of the nation's immigration system.

In his first major address on the subject, Obama told an audience at American University that 'the system is broken, and everybody knows it.'

'I'm ready to move forward; the majority of Democrats are ready to move forward,' Obama said. 'I believe the majority of Americans are ready to move forward.'

A recent Gallup poll found Obama's support among Hispanics dropped from 69 percent in January to 64 percent in February and 57 percent in May. During the same period, his support among black and white voters remained steady.

The Gallup pollsters noted that the major dips in Hispanic support coincide with periods when Obama was criticized for not doing enough — or anything — to address immigration reform. For example, following his January State of the Union address.

With control of the House and Senate — and by extension, his own agenda — at stake in November, Obama is hoping that re-energizing the immigration debate will shore up that crucial Democratic bloc.

The Justice Department is expected to join the effort, with a lawsuit challenging Arizona's tough new anti-illegal-immigration laws.

While Obama so far has his party's support and the backing of many key labor and grass-roots groups, conservatives are calling the renewed debate a transparent political move.

'President Obama is operating under the false assumption that Latinos are natural-born Democrats who will rally behind his policies in lock step,' said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.

Obama, who had promised to make reform a priority in his first year then backed away to deal with the economy, said Arizona put immigration back on the agenda.

The state's new law, which goes into effect July 29, requires police to determine the immigration status of those they detain for other causes and requires immigrants to carry documents proving they are legal residents.

Obama marked out no timetable or deadline for the process, and essentially issued a dare to lawmakers to put action behind the frustration he said many feel about the broken system.

'The question now is whether we will have the courage and the political will to pass a bill through Congress to finally get it done,' he said.

His plan would secure the borders, hold employers accountable and provide a way for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States to become legal citizens.

The proposal places Obama squarely at the policy crossroads where former President George W. Bush saw his own reform efforts collapse three years ago.

Obama similarly rejected blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants, saying it would send a wrong message that there are no consequences for breaking the law. But he also rejected a massive deportation, calling it unrealistic.

'The politics of who is and who is not allowed to enter this country, and on what terms, has always been contentious, and that remains true today,' Obama said. 'And it's made worse by a failure of those of us in Washington to fix a broken immigration system.'

EDITORS NOTE: The Presidents remarks are available online at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-comprehensive-immigration-reform


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