President Barack Obama headed to Texas Tuesday toting a pledge to jump-start work on a comprehensive immigration bill — a long-awaited, never-attained goal of a Hispanic community that is crucial to Obama’s hopes of winning key southwestern states in 2012.
Are they cheering his newfound commitment to the goal? Hardly.
Many top Hispanic activists say Obama’s commitment to a bill is welcomed, but too little, too late, and they’d rather he put just as much effort into actions he can do with the stroke of his pen — such as slowing the deportations of certain illegal immigrants. “We all understand the importance of the legislative process and that we need a bipartisan bill in the long run, but that will take a long time and given the gridlock in Washington, has an uncertain payoff,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez
(D-Ill.) said Monday. “Immigrant communities need help now, our system is broken now, and the president can do something about it now.”
Obama’s speech in El Paso, Texas, is the centerpiece of the president’s latest push for a reform bill, but he’s battling deep skepticism among those most likely to appreciate the renewed effort, which has involved three White House meetings in the past three weeks and multiple mentions by the president of the need for reform. When Obama summoned more than 50 heavy hitters in politics, business and law enforcement to the White House last month to enlist their help on the bill, they surprised him by insisting that Obama needed to do more with his executive power to slow the deportations of illegal immigrants such as college students.
The disconnect between Obama and many in the State Dining Room points up the president’s challenge.
Not only is Obama resisting requests to use his executive power, but there also is no evidence the administration has a legislative strategy
to pass a bill through Congress. That has left many to question Obama’s motives: Is he really serious this time, or is he just checking a political box ahead of the 2012 election?