Hispanic Leader Softens Tone Toward Obama

Posted April 22, 2010 at 6:17pm

The House’s highest-ranking Hispanic member appeared Thursday to back off his earlier criticism that President Barack Obama has failed to follow through on promises regarding immigration reform.

With new signs that the Senate could consider a comprehensive immigration bill this summer, House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said Obama has “done quite a bit” behind the scenes to pave the way for Congress to send a comprehensive immigration bill to his desk this year.

“Some of it, you don’t see because it’s not obvious on the surface,” Becerra said. “But a lot of work has been done to try to lay the seeds for an effort to try to do an immigration fix.”

Becerra’s tone was markedly different from the one he took earlier this month when he said in a radio interview that Latinos view Obama with “suspicion” and question his priorities since he failed to follow through with a pledge to pass immigration reform in his first year in office.

“The president made a promise,” Becerra said during the April 6 interview. “He hasn’t fulfilled that promise.”

On Thursday, Becerra was careful to spread the blame. “There’s suspicion out there, but not just of the president,” he said. “There’s suspicion out there of all he leaders who have — for quite some time — said we need to reform the system and haven’t.”

Becerra said he was encouraged by reports that Democratic leaders are pushing ahead with plans to move comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year, starting in the Senate. He added that the legwork Obama has already done “will surface if, indeed, there’s a chance to do a bill and a vote.”

But he emphasized that Latinos would be counting on the president to help round up votes.

Becerra said he is optimistic that Obama will invest substantial amounts of time in immigration reform, perhaps in part because one other high-priority item has already moved forward, and a second one appears to be gathering steam.

“The fact that we got health care out of the way, the fact that it looks like we are moving forward on Wall Street reform: All those things, I believe, help place us in a position where the table will be set to deal with immigration reform,” Becerra said.