At the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala Awards Wednesday night, an annual gathering of Hispanic leaders and members of Congress, President Obama said he won’t “walk away” from an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.
“You have every right to keep the heat on me and the Democrats, and I hope you do. That’s how our political process works,” Obama said. “But don’t forget who is standing with you, and who is standing against you. Don’t ever believe that this election coming up doesn’t matter. ”
The President pointed out that immigration reform can’t pass without Republican votes and accused the GOP of playing election-year politics with the issue. Obama also blasted the GOP for stalling his judicial appointees to ambassadorships and the federal courts.
“Today, the folks who yell the loudest about the federal government’s long failure to fix this problem are some of the same folks standing in the way of good faith efforts to fix it,” Obama said. “To make real progress on these or any issues, we’ve got to break the Republican leadership’s blockade.”
Obama captured two-thirds of the Latino vote in 2008 and promised to deliver his campaign pledge to pass comprehensive immigration reform while acknowledging the frustration of many in the room who yelled “when.”
“Now I know that many of you campaigned hard for me, and understandably you’re frustrated that we have not been able to move this over the finish line yet. I am too,” he said. “But let me be clear: I will not walk away from this fight. My commitment is to getting this done as soon as we can.”
This week has seen momentum building up around immigration reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he intends to attach the DREAM Act to an upcoming defense policy bill that the Senate could begin considering as soon as next week. The measure would allow young people who attend college or join the military to become legal U.S. residents. Senator Robert Menendez announced yesterday, as reported by La Plaza, that he plans to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill soon.
Obama is scheduled to meet today with Sen. Menendez, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Rep. Nydia Velazquez to talk about the immigration measures.
“When millions of immigrants toil in the shadows of our society, that’s not just a Latino problem; that is an American problem,” Obama said. “And we have to solve it.”