U.S. President Barack Obama touring the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Pete Souza
Latin America: Week in Review, United States

Obama Pushes For Comprehensive Immigration Reform During Visit To El Paso

May 11, 2011 By Staff

U.S. President Barack Obama touring the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Pete Souza

Today in Latin America

Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday called for comprehensive immigration reform during a visit to the border city of El Paso, Texas.

Standing within feet of the United States border with Mexico, Obama tried to rally support for a proposal that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He also called out conservatives who argue that the United States should secure its own borders before liberalizing the country’s current immigration law.

“They wanted more agents at the border. Well, we now have more boots on the ground on the Southwest border than at any time in our history,” Obama said in a speech at the Chamizal National Memorial. “The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents, more than twice as many as there were in 2004.”

Besides increasing border patrols, the Obama administration has also increased cooperation with Mexico in fighting drug cartel violence. Officials say there has been a marked increased in the seizure of illegal drug and weapons and a 36 percent drop in undocumented immigration attempts.

Obama’s speech was laced with heavy political undertones as he tried to reassure Latino voters of his commitment to immigration before the 2012 election season kicks into high gear.

His visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, the first during his presidency, underscored a tension over his immigration record that could jeopardize his re-election prospects. While advocating heavily for immigration reform during his 2008 campaign, Obama has not pushed hard for the legislation in his first two years as president, during which Democrats controlled Congress.

With Republicans now holding control of the House of Representatives, there is little hope for any immigration reform legislation to pass. The stepped-up activities by Obama and members of his cabinet are meant to reinforce that the president is pressing the issue.

Democrats in the Senate announced late Tuesday that they would re-introduce the Dream Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for some students. Last year, the measure passed the House last year but died in the Senate.

“President Obama believes Democrats and Republicans should come together to tackle an issue that is critical not only to our national security but also to the economy and our global competiveness,” According to a White House statement on Obama’s visit to Texas. “In his recent meetings, the President has made clear he will continue to lead on this issue, but has asked these leaders to take a public and active role in elevating the immigration debate.”

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  • Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced Tuesday that a new YPF oil discovery in Neuquén province could represent a 6 percent increase in the country’s reserves.

Image: Pete Souza @ Whitehouse.gov.

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