WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama promised a Hispanic group Monday that he’d continue to push for sweeping immigration reform even as he acknowledged frustration with his administration on the matter.
Speaking before the National Council of La Raza, Obama noted he had promised during the campaign “to work tirelessly to fix immigration laws and make the Dream Act a reality” so that the children of undocumented immigrants could stay in the U.S. and study.
He blamed Republicans and the Washington climate where “compromise is becoming a dirty word” for blocking the legislation last December.
“Feel free to keep the heat on me, but know the Democrats and this president are with you, don’t get confused on that,” Obama said. “Remember who it is we need to change to change the laws.”Obama flatly rejected calls from some immigration groups that he stop deportations by forgoing congressional approval and issuing an executive order.
“I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books,” he told the lunch crowd at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. “I share your concerns and I understand them and I promise we are responding. We are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane, best way.”
Attendees chanted a modified version of his campaign slogan “Yes you can” as
he noted that some groups wanted him to “enforce laws on my own .
“Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting and not just on immigration reform,” he said to laughter, noting the speech comes as he’s spent weeks tangling with Congress over how to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
“I need a dance partner here and the floor is empty,” he said.
The speech comes as Republicans look to court Hispanics, who represent the fastest-growing voter bloc in the country.
An independent Republican affiliated with GOP strategist Karl Rove last week began running Spanish language ads in nine Hispanic markets, blasting Obama’s record
"I supported President Obama because he spoke so beautifully, but since then things have gone from bad to much worse," says a female character in the English version of the same ad. "He said spending hundreds of billions on a stimulus would create more jobs, but now all we've got is a lot more debt and more people out of work."
The Democratic National Committee responded with a Spanish language ad of its own it says is aimed at "underscoring the president’s commitment to the Hispanic community and setting the record straight."
The spot will run in some of the same cities with large Hispanic populations as the anti-Obama Spanish language ad.
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