President defends himself on immigration

October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

LA Times:  President Obama defended his unsuccessful effort to revamp U.S. immigration policies in an interview  on Spanish-language radio, saying that Latino voters should blame Republicans for obstructing reform and pointedly reminding listeners that change takes time. Obama said that even after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, it took years more for African Americans to achieve many of their goals. “Let me say this as an African American: We worked for decades on civil rights,” Obama said. “It didn’t come after two years. People had to march, they had to have their heads beaten, they had fire hoses put on them . . . Change isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight.” The remarks came in a spirited interview in Los Angeles with Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, a well-known Univision Radio personality who says he was born in Mexico and entered the U.S. in 1988 by illegally crossing the border, gaining legal residence later.  Obama is heavily courting Latino voters in the final days of the fall political campaigns, as he vigorously tries to help fellow Democrats retain control of Congress by energizing the coalition of voters who helped put him in the White House in 2008.  But in the intervening two years, many Latino voters have grown disenchanted over the signature issue of U.S. immigration policy. Many want the federal government to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented workers in the U.S., while those elsewhere on the political spectrum insist on tighter border.  More than any other public forum to date, the Univision radio interview forced the president into a defensive stance on the topic. Obama repeatedly has called for reform, but Sotelo questioned how vigorously the administration has pushed to make it happen.  After all, Sotelo said, Obama managed to enact health care revisions, his top legislative priority in the current Congress.  “You were able to pass a healthcare plan and you worked a lot for that,” Sotelo said, according to a transcript of the interview provided by Univision. “And most of my listeners, they haven’t seen that, the same way that you worked for healthcare, for immigration reform.”  Sotelo asked how Obama can ask for Latino support now, prompting a hard sales pitch by the president for Latino votes in the upcoming congressional elections just a week away.  “There is a notion that somehow if I had worked it hard enough, we could have magically done it,” Obama said. “That’s just not the way our system works. If I need 60 votes to get this done, then I’m going to have to have some support from the other side. If the Latino community decides to sit out this election, then there will be fewer votes and it will be less likely to get done.”

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