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Obama Immigration Comments Rile Congress

A major obstacle to moving immigration reform in the House is the reality that many Democrats are facing tough re-election campaigns and oppose taking on an issue as politically explosive as immigration reform. Some moderates also tend to side with Republicans in opposing a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants already in the country.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who leads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, criticized Obama for talking tough on the issue but not following through with action. The Illinois Democrat said Hispanics feel “disillusioned” by Obama’s mixed signals about his willingness to push reform this year.

“In the beginning, he ignored us. Then he told us, ‘You’re next,’” Gutierrez said, referring to Obama wanting to move health care reform first. Now, Gutierrez said, advocates are stuck in a “yo-yo phase” as Obama goes back and forth in his messages.

“One week, he’s calling Sen. Scott Brown” (Mass.), Gutierrez said, referring to the president calling a handful of moderate Republicans last month to discuss the issue. But Obama later told reporters that he thinks Congress has “too much to do” to take on immigration reform.

Gutierrez warned that the White House will find it “increasingly difficult not to act in 2011” since Obama initially vowed to pass reform in his first year in office and has yet to deliver.

“How does the president campaign for re-election?” he asked.

Calderon’s visit also reignited debate over the stringent Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of anyone suspected to be an illegal immigrant. The Mexican president said that while he will “continue being respectful of the internal policies of the United States,” he retains his “firm rejection” of U.S. laws that treat “people that work and provide things to this nation ... as criminals.”

But House Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday urging her to keep Calderon from “interfering in the internal affairs of the United States.”

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