WASHINGTON, September 21, 2012 — President Obama, speaking at the Latino town hall in Coral Gables, Fla. last night during the Univision News Forum, reaffirmed his belief in the American Dream for DREAMers, the young undocumented immigrants, who are still fighting to get the DREAM Act passed through Congress.
What stands between them and that dream is a Republican Congress that has thwarted both President Obama and Democrats to pass legislation to make that dream a reality.
Like Mitt Romney the night before, the President faced tough questioning from interviewers Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas.
The President blamed the Republican Congress for not making immigration reform possible, but host Jorge Ramos was not letting the President off that easily, constantly reminding President Obama of his failed promises and his record deportation rates, higher than any other president in the history of the country. Obama admitted his lack of success, attributing the failure to the severe economic downturn in the economy that forced him and Congress to push his promise to the backburner.
Obama also singled out Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who back in 2007 had been a big part of the push to pass immigration reform, but then turned around and voted against the DREAM Act in 2008, which would have helped young people brought here illegally as children a path to citizenship and full participation in American society.
Obama explained his frustration with McCain, saying, “…my opponent in 2008, who had been a champion of it [immigration reform] and who attended these meetings — suddenly would walk away. That’s what I did not anticipate.” Obama added: “… I confess I did not expect [that], and so I’m happy to take responsibility for being naive here.”
But Ramos was unwavering in pressing the issue, saying, “You promised. And a promise is a promise. With all due respect, you didn’t keep that promise.”
The President gave as good as he took, reminding his hosts that “I didn’t make a promise that I would get everything done 100% when I was elected as president. What I promised was that I would work every single day, as hard as I can, to make sure that everyone in this country, regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they come from, that they would have a fair shot at the American dream. That promise I’ve kept.”
When asked about his opponent Mitt Romney’s remark that 47% of Americans are lazy loafers who don’t pay their taxes and are apt to vote for the President, Obama said about Romney: “When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot” or Romney would know that “The American people are the hardest working people ever.”
Obama reminded his audience that the 47% that Romney so cavalierly denigrated probably pay other taxes like state and sales tax, gas tax and payroll taxes, and that the 47% includes our veterans, our military overseas, senior citizens, the disabled, and students. Plus, he added, there are abusers of the tax system, both at the bottom and at the top, “because there are millionaires who aren’t paying taxes.” He didn’t mention any names.
But he did praise former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a Republican, for supporting immigration reform and who had the guts to criticize his own party for backing anti-immigration policies like the ones in Arizona, which has driven so many Latinos into the ranks of Democratic voters.
The President went on to remind the audience that Romney has lauded Arizona’s punitive 2010 immigration law, which many Hispanics say allows racial profiling. “The candidate sitting before you backs comprehensive immigration and backs the DREAM Act,” while Mitt Romney “believes the Arizona immigration law should serve as a model for the nation.”
Obama admitted that his administration has deported more than a million illegal immigrants, the majority of them Latinos, but he explained he was zeroing in on people who are a threat to America or newly arrived illegal immigrants. “We have to focus our attention or enforcement on people who pose a threat to our communities, not on hardworking families who are minding their own business.”
At the end of the interview, Obama was asked what his greatest failure as President had been and he laughingly said to Jorge Ramos, who had pressed him hard on his immigration policy, “Jorge, as you remind me, my biggest failure so far is we haven’t gotten comprehensive immigration reform done yet.” The audience joined in with appreciative laughter.
Some saw the Latino forums at Coral Gables as one of the toughest interviews either candidate has had to face. But President Obama, while admitting his failures and touting his successes, rolled with the punches, something his opponent had a harder time doing the night before.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
For more on the Mitt Romney interview on Univision go to: DREAM Act: Mitt Romney still calls DREAMers ‘illegal aliens’ at Univision’s Latino Forum
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