President Barack Obama made a personal, emotional pitch for Latino support today, citing his own past as the son of an immigrant and his backing of broad immigration reform as a contrast to presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s vow to veto the DREAM Act.
While Romney sought Thursday to keep the focus on the struggling economy and the unemployment rate, accusing Obama of failing to keep his commitments, the president said his administration has been doing what it can despite a GOP filibuster of the DREAM Act, which ironically was written in part by Republicans.
“The bill hadn’t changed, the need hadn’t changed, the only thing that changed was politics,” Obama said.
He cited his decision to unilaterally end the threat of deportation for an estimated 800,000 young immigrants brought here as children.
“I refused to keep looking young people in the eye, deserving young people in the eye and tell them, ‘tough luck, politics is too hard,’” he said. And he referred to his own personal story.
“When I meet these young people ... I see myself,” Obama said. “Who knows what they might achieve? I see my daughters and my nieces and my nephews. Who knows what they might achieve if we just give them a chance? That’s what I’m fighting for. That’s what I stand for.”
Obama said he’d be more than happy to work with Congress on a permanent solution, but he said Republicans haven’t been willing to work with him.
“My door has been open for three and a half years. They know where to find me,” he said. “I’ve said time and again, send me the DREAM Act, I’ll sign it right away.”
Obama said he backed the approach Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and President George W. Bush pursued six years ago, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants but sank on the Senate floor. The DREAM Act has had similar trouble getting through both chambers. The legislation would provide a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrant children who go to college or join the military.
The Romney campaign took aim at Obama after his speech and again homed in on the economy.
“The economic vibrancy of our nation’s Hispanic community has been crushed by the burdensome regulations, uncompetitive tax code and anti-business policies promulgated by the Obama Administration over the past three and a half years,” said Hector Barreto, the chairman of the Latino Coalition. “Governor Romney is dedicated to stopping President Obama’s attack on free enterprise and removing bureaucratic red tape and barriers to job creation for small businesses.”
The Romney campaign cited quotes from Obama before the Latino group four years earlier, when he talked of creating new jobs and ending the housing crisis. “No election-year speech can cover up the president’s job-killing policies that have led to 11 percent Hispanic unemployment and millions of Hispanics living in poverty,” said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.