June 22nd, 2012
03:27 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama links economy and immigration in spirited defense

Lake Buena Vista, Florida (CNN) – President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned case for his re-election on Friday while defending his record on the economy and his newly stated immigration policy.

He highlighted the new stance, unveiled last Friday, as "the right thing to do" and took aim at his Republican rival over his previous statements regarding the DREAM Act that would have provided a permanent legal pathway for children of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as young people.

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"Giving them a reason to hope, that was the right thing to do," Obama told the crowd at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, about his announcement last Friday.

He said Congress should still pass the DREAM Act, which failed in Congress in 2010, and called out Romney for saying earlier in the primary process that he would veto the bill if it crossed his desk.

"He said he would veto the DREAM Act and we should take him at his word," Obama said of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. "I'm just saying," he added to laughter.

The president specifically pointed to proposals that have helped those in the Latino community, pointing to the expansion of Pell grants, small business tax cuts and health care reform, and contrasted them with those of Republicans who he said believe in a top down system.

"That's how they plan to do it, and I think they're wrong," Obama said.

Romney spoke before the same group Thursday. He called the president's recently announced policy a "temporary measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election." As president, he said, he "won't settle for stop-gap measures" and would instead work with those on both sides of the aisle to find a "long-term solution." But he also did not say what he would do regarding the policy if elected.

His immigration policy, as further laid out in the speech, would include lifting caps on skilled worker visas, speeding up the process of applications for temporary agricultural work visas, reallocating green cards to those looking to keep their families together, green cards for those who receive an advance degree and a legal pathway to citizenship for anyone serving in the military.

The president last addressed the conference in 2008 as the Democratic presidential nominee. At the time he called for immigration reform that would "secure the borders" and "punish employers who exploit immigrant labor."

"That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day," Obama said in June of 2008.

However, he has failed to put forward a comprehensive immigration reform plan while in the White House. He backed the DREAM Act - legislation that would provide a legal pathway to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants - but it ultimately failed in Congress in 2010. Critics argue Obama did not make the issue a priority while Democrats controlled both Congressional chambers. Supporters have blamed a gridlocked Washington for failure to fully address the issue and point to successes within the Department of Homeland Security in deporting those in the country who had run-ins with the law.

It is those successes, the Obama administration has said, that led to the president's policy shift toward undocumented young people currently residing in the United States, now that there are more resources available.

The new directive under existing law, unveiled one week ago, will stop deporting young people in the United States illegally if they meet certain criteria. Those who met the requirements could then apply for a work permit for that time period. The applicants must be under the age of 30 and brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, have been in the country for at least five consecutive years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military.

On Friday, Obama said he remains ready to pass the DREAM Act and accused Republicans of playing politics.

"My door has been open for three and a half years, they know where to find me," Obama said.

Romney's campaign capitalized on the president's 2008 address to NALEO, saying economic promises he made during that speech have gone unfulfilled.

"In 2008, Candidate Obama promised NALEO he would create new jobs and end the housing crisis," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote in a statement. "Four years later, President Obama is back asking for more time. No election-year speech can cover up the President's job-killing policies that have led to 11% Hispanic unemployment and millions of Hispanics living in poverty. On Day One, Mitt Romney will take our country in a new direction and get our economy back on the right track."

Despite the announcement's close proximity to Election Day, members of the current administration have insisted the move was not political and instead the just and correct step for those hoping to excel and contribute to America.

But it is impossible to ignore the implications for November. Obama won 67% of Latino support in 2008 to Sen. John McCain's 31%, in a year when they represented a larger share of the voters than in 2004. The biggest breakthrough was in Florida, where he won 57% of the Latino vote, backed by strong showings among men, women and young people, in a state that historically supported Republican presidential candidates.

The Hispanic population in Florida and nationwide has continued to boom in recent years. They make up 22.5% of the population in the Sunshine State, according to 2010 census data, up from over 16% of the population in 2000. Although the voter registration figures among the demographic have increased, the jump has not matched the population spike.

More than 21 million Latinos will be eligible to vote nationwide this November, but just over 10 million are registered to vote, a disparity the Obama re-election campaign and that of Mitt Romney are hoping to close.

Recent polling shows a majority of likely voters support the president's policy shift on immigration, welcome news no doubt for the campaign that, like Team Romney, has increased voter outreach to Latino voters, particularly in competitive presidential election states with larger concentrations of eligible Hispanic voters, including Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

Obama campaign officials predicted the Latino population would represent the same percentage of the vote in 2012 that they did in 2008, at 9% of the electorate, but that more in the voting block would turn out to vote.

Both campaigns have released a consistent string of Spanish language television ads and web videos, in large part targeting battleground states.

Invoking familiar campaign themes from 2008, Obama used Friday's address in part to energize influential Latino leaders.

"Whether our ancestors arrived on the Mayflower or brought here on slave ships, whether they signed in at Ellis Island or they crossed the Rio Grande, their diversity has not only enriched this country, it helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known," he said.

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Pro-Obama super PAC raises $4 million in May


Filed under: 2012 • Florida • Immigration • Latinos • President Obama
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Four and The Door wrote:

    But Obama had 2 years of getting everything on his wish list. Why didn't he do it permanently during 2009 or 2010?.....
    ---------
    Still repeating that "he had a two year filibuster proof majority" fib, I see. Sen. Scott Brown was sworn in Jan. 2010. There goes your bubble.

    June 22, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  2. Myviewis

    Gurgyl – don't worry, not only do they have our jobs in China, India but now Obama gave them a work permit to also take our jobs in our own country. I agree with you that what Obama did with the illegal immigrants to get a work permit is pretty good, they now take our jobs legally.

    June 22, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. Marc S

    For all of those who say that President Obama had 2 years before Republicans controlled the house to follow his campaign adgenda, I submit that he needed a super majority, because everything he put in front of Congress was tabled under the threat of a filibuster. It used to be they actually had to stand up and speak until everyone was forced NOT to vote. Now they just threaten to and constipate government. The President gave these people who work, serve our country, and educate themselves a chance, by executive order because congress WOULD NOT ACT. Either way it's politics, but the Republicans can't deny it was the right thing to do. They're only argument is that it's a temporary solution. If that's the case, pass the Dream Act. Enough of this political volleyball BS!

    June 22, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. Gessepi

    The only time Obama speaks to this group is when he needs their votes. When they needed his actions,, he was missing in action.

    June 22, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Trying to get right wingnuts to understand the economy is like teaching a pig to sing. They think the austerity measures that made our first great depression, gave us the Bush republican near depression, and is wreaking havoc in Europe is the only solution. Wake up wingnuts.

    June 22, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Myviewis

    I don't get this CNN-you guys won't post my comments yet you're okay with the President making his point that Romney shipped jobs to Mexico, well those Mexicans are the same ones taking our jobs here in our country and now with the work permit they really will be taking more jobs. So it makes sense to say that not only do Mexicans get our jobs in Mexico but they get our jobs here too. Seriously, how can you guys ignore this?

    June 22, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Don't forget, 'this group' had the dream act passed in the house and had 55 votes in the senate, which allowed the GOP to kill it. Republicans are always on the wrong side of history.

    June 22, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. Kev

    This President is so full of balony it isn't funny. He's such a LIAR. If lations think Obozo cares about them they are so wrong. Look at what he did for Holder in protecting him? And you want to trust this loser I sure don't

    June 22, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Patriot Awesome

    Why wasn't able to pass the dream act in the first two years of his presidency? Because the Republicans filibustered it. It's not that hard to look up people. In fact that 's the answer to most of the why didn't he get this or that done.

    If you're disappointed in what he hasn't been able to accomplish in his presidency so far, all you'll have to do is vote a straight democrat ticket this election.

    I used to be a Republican and I have to say the current Republican party is run by a bunch of treasonous paranoid lunatics with no viable plan for America.

    June 22, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. Adrian

    You Republicans are aware that Obama tried to pass the Dream Act back in 2010 but republicans filibustered it right?

    June 22, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe Say_Nothing -Do_Nothing_Flip_n_Flopper Greedy_One_Percent

    When Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe and President Obama were put on the same stage to talk about the issues...President Obama wiped the floor with Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe behind!!!!

    Now we can take that to Etch-A-Sketch Mitt's Swiss Bank Accounts and the CAYMEN ISLAND!!!! LOL

    June 22, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. Four and The Door

    Rudy NYC
    Four and The Door wrote:

    But Obama had 2 years of getting everything on his wish list. Why didn't he do it permanently during 2009 or 2010?.....
    ---
    Still repeating that "he had a two year filibuster proof majority" fib, I see. Sen. Scott Brown was sworn in Jan. 2010. There goes your bubble.
    _____________________________________________________________________________________________
    He didn't even try. Face it, Latino Americans were at the bottom of his list until 2012 when he realized he needs their votes to even have a shot at reelection. You gotta laugh because actually instead of " Giving them a reason for hope...", he's trying to get them to give him a reason to hope.

    June 22, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. Jon

    Does truth elude President Obama? … How did he learn to stretch the truth like that? Harvard?

    June 22, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  14. Andre

    Ten years down the road I guarantee you half the Obama haters on this site will be talking about, "yeah, I voted him for a second term" when they really didn't. The President has the election wrapped up; we just need to get rid of the Congressional clowns who think they get payed to play goalie against the Executive Branch.

    June 22, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  15. Jon

    Marc C ... did you forget he had a filibuster proof Senate? so your arguement holds no weight

    June 22, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  16. Ronda in Houston,TX

    To Wiredweirdlin SF: What does taking vacations have to do with the current topic here? And FYI, George W Bush loved Camp David and his ranch so much that he made more trips vacating there than Obama.

    June 22, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. ST

    There is a stark difference between a person who calls himself a businessman and the really smart politician. If I compare what Romney said to the Latinos yesterday and Pres. Obama speech of today, I realise Romney might be applying the wrong job!

    June 22, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  18. Deport

    93% of African Americans is the reason Obama is in office , now he wants to take the black folks vote for granted over latinos. Black people please vote for Romney 2012!! Since Obambi wants to disrespect us

    June 22, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. NameFrank Deery

    Gee! Did he explain all those deportations? More than Bush, who honored the Dream Act.

    June 22, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  20. Bootstomper

    Romney and pawlenty, just like the GOP convention,all white all the time.
    ,

    June 22, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  21. wade

    It does not matter what Obama says or does no one can believe him now. he has failed at the economy and is involved it two scandals bigger than Watergate. The national security leaks from him the Holder is protecting him on and the Gun running and murders of Holder that Obama is protecting Holder on. The American people see COVER UP and Obama is falling like a rock in the polls. 40,000 Mexicans have died int he drug wars and you think they are going to vote for the man protecting the man responsible for selling guns to the murderers? So yes he may be able to buy off some Latino votes with tax payer dollars but all the rest of America is leaving him. Even woman now prefer Romney over Obama.

    June 22, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  22. chechi

    Inmigrants do jobs that american born workers do not want. So stop complaining or are you ready to go to the fields and pick up fruit in the middle of the summer at a very low pay? or clean houses, take care of children and seniors, make sure the gardens look nice and that you can afford a house because the labor is cheaper in buliding it?
    Some of your ancestors did this if you are of Irish, italian , polish or other foreign countries extraction. This country was formed by multi ethnic groups, now is time for Hispanics, so deal with !!!!!!!!!

    June 22, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  23. Jon

    Immigration isn't the issue ... even though President Obama and his buddies would like for us to think it is ... The issue silly is: Jobs ... Economy ... Debt. So each time Obama distracts the Media with issues like student loans, immigration, Holder and F & F ... he is keeping us from focusing on what really matters.... But who can blame him from trying to do that ... if we allow the President to distract us ... then he will be able to use his shell game to get re-elected. If the President had to run on jobs, the economy and debt … he loses.

    June 22, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
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