Obama Seeks Star Power to Support Immigration Reform

May 2, 2011 05:01

President Barack Obama has launched a full-court press to bring back Hispanic voters to the Democratic Party and to his re-election campaign.

The Americano

On Thursday, the president invited a dozen influential Spanish-language television anchors and radio personalities as well as comely Latino actresses who have been active in Hispanic causes. Among the high-profile Latinos was Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, who in 2006 helped mobilize hundreds of thousands of protesters in Los Angeles and across the nation against enforcement-only immigration proposals. Others at the White House were actresses Eva Longoria and América Ferrera and television figures Don Francisco of Univisión and José Díaz-Balart of Telemundo.

According to the Associated Press, in a summary describing the meeting, the White House said Obama stressed his commitment to a comprehensive overhaul and pledged to intensify his efforts “to lead a civil debate on this issue in the coming weeks and months.”

But immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants has stalled even when Democrats controlled both chambers in 2009 and 2010. Obama has never explained – nor did he do so Thursday – why he did not press his own party to pass the issue when it had absolute majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Its prospects are even more remote now that Republicans control the House. Hispanics have complained loudly about the president’s inaction. His response: call another meeting with Hispanic leaders to the White House and blame Congress for failure to pass legislation that would have provided a path to legal status for law-abiding young people brought to the United States as children who either plan to attend college or join the military.

When those present Thursday asked him why more undocumented immigrants had been deported under his administration than in any other year under any other president, he indicated that without congressional action his hands were tied. That is only partially correct.

For months the administration has said that its policy was only to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records. The truth is it deported a record 393,000 undocumented immigrants last year – a vast majority of whom were not criminals.

The administration cannot announce and proclaim a policy that says that it is targeting illegal undocumented criminals and then not have an explanation, or blame congress, for deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants guilty only of seeking a better life in this country. Entering the country illegally is not a felony, but a misdemeanor, which hardly makes all those deported criminals.

The administration can say it can do nothing else, yet when pressured by Hispanic groups in 2010 to stop raids on places where undocumented worked, those raids have been greatly reduced, or coverage of the same are no longer made public.

In its summary, the White House said: “The President also noted that the only way to fix what’s broken about our immigration system is through legislative action in Congress, and that he cannot unilaterally change the law.”

President Obama has a choice, and that has been voiced by many Democratic Party loyalists, among them Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Il.). He either takes an active role in promoting a pro-immigration reform legislation, or he can continue meeting with the stars and preaching to the chorus.

Immigration reform also has opponents and the Obama administration needs to know that they cannot support immigration reform and not antagonize those who are opposed to it.

That is why the president must lead. Talking is no longer enough!

AP said it well in its story. The flurry of immigration activity at the White House illustrates both the desire by Obama and his advisers to show engagement on the issue and to halt any potential slide in Hispanic support.

Diaz-Balart, a Telemundo news anchor and host and brother of Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, said Thursday’s meeting was encouraging because the Hispanic community had not heard from Obama since the campaign, when he targeted Latino voters with a pledge to push for an immigration overhaul.
“The silence was not golden,” said Diaz-Balart.

The Americano/Agencies

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