Obama Continues Push For Comprehensive Immigration Reform At Meeting With Hispanic Celebrities
April 28, 2011 By Roque Planas
President Barack Obama reiterated his call for comprehensive immigration reform Thursday at a meeting with prominent Hispanic celebrities, including actresses Eva Longoria and America Ferrera, and news anchor Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo.
Obama told the group that he favors enacting a comprehensive immigration reform that would create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, most of whom are Hispanic. But Obama also said that he could not change the law by himself and would have to leave action to Congress. “More voices are needed to elevate the immigration debate beyond the politics, false debates, and rhetoric that have dominated the issue,” the White House said in a press statement.
When asked by participants in the one-hour meeting, Obama said he would not halt deportations of undocumented immigrants — an issue that remains controversial in many Hispanic communities. The Obama administration holds the record for most immigrants deported, with 392,000 for fiscal year 2010.
Thursday’s meeting was the latest in a series of steps Obama has taken to drum up interest in immigration reform, as he attempts to mobilize the Latino constituency that rallied behind his presidential bid in 2008, but lost enthusiasm for him once he took office. Some 67 percent of the country’s 10 million Latino voters supported Obama in 2008. By the midterms last year, only 60 percent of Hispanic got behind Democratic candidates, according to numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center. Obama’s approval rating among Latinos dipped below 50 percent over the last two weeks, according to Gallup polls.
Last week, Obama met with stakeholders from across the political spectrum to discuss immigration reform. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Senator Mel Martinez, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and others attended the April 19 meeting at the White House where Obama laid out his four-point plan for comprehensive immigration reform.
The key points to the plan include creating a pathway for citizenship for undocumented workers, ramping up border security and recruiting high-skilled, entrepreneurial immigrants that Obama says will help create jobs.
Obama’s renewed interest in immigration reform also owes in part to the continuing tug-of-war between the administration and state governments who want to take enforcement into their own hands. The Georgia state legislature recently passed a law similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 that would give police authority to check the immigration status of the people they detain. The state legislatures of Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and others are considering similar laws.
Obama criticized the approach in an interview on Tuesday with Georgia’s WSB-TV (see the video below). When asked what he would do to address people’s concerns about illegal immigration, Obama said he had done more to enforce immigration law and secure the border than previous administrations, but that it is not possible to confront the problem through punitive measures alone.
“The truth of the matter is we’ve still got some undocumented workers in this country. The way to handle it is through comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama said. “I think it’s a mistake for states to try to do this piecemeal. We can’t have 50 different immigration laws around the country. Arizona tried this and a federal court already struck them down.”