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Hispanics Waiting for DREAM Act

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Rep. Luis Gutierrez recently wrapped up a multicity listening tour that focused heavily on immigration reform.

"People want to be for him. They really want to be for him, but he's really going to have to give them a reason," Gutierrez said in an interview after giving a rousing speech to the crowd of nearly 500 attendees.

"People think it's a little late that he didn't do anything when we were in the majority," he added. "Now they're a bit more cynical, after these two years, when he says, 'I want to bring Democrats and Republicans together.'"

Obama carried 67 percent of the Latino vote in the 2008 general election and captured broad support of that base in swing states including Florida, New Mexico and Nevada, according to the Pew Research Center. In his home state of Illinois, 72 percent of Latinos voted for Obama.

Many of those voters swung for Obama after heavily favoring then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) in the Democratic primary. Clinton carried Latinos 2-to-1 over Obama, and, according to PRC, "no other major demographic voting group in the country swung so heavily to Obama as Latinos did between the primaries and the general election" in 2008.

"We've noticed that the energy and enthusiasm among immigrants in general, and Hispanics in particular, is not there the way it was in 2008," explained Chicago Alderman Danny Solis, one of many speakers at the event. "We want to help the president address these issues and pick up the energy and enthusiasm that's dropped off over the last two years."

Homemade posters that peppered the room reflected a sense of frustration that was also expressed through wild applause and loud chants during the two-hour town hall.

"Change, We're Still Waiting," one sign read.

"We hoped for better," read another.

"Please President Obama, don't take our daddy away. We love him and it would make us very sad," two young children said after their father spoke to the crowd, explaining that he was trying to earn citizenship status to stay in Chicago with his family.

But attendees also shouted "Sí se puede," Spanish for Obama's 2008 "Yes We Can" slogan, and they held out hope that he can find a way to soon address it.

Obama has continued to keep the issue alive. He hosted a Hispanic Policy Conference at the White House this week that focused on, among other things, immigration reform. He met in May with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose members called on Obama to enact the DREAM Act administratively. And also in May, he delivered a host of speeches throughout the country on the issue.

Responding to a question during last week's Twitter town hall about whether he would enact a visa program to help startup companies keep specialized employees, Obama said he was working with stakeholders to figure out if there are "ways that we can streamline the visa system."

"We've always been a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," he said. "And so we need comprehensive immigration reform, part of which would allow entrepreneurs and high-skilled individuals to stay here because we want to be attracting that talent here."

On that point, Obama and Gutierrez seem to agree.

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