June 22nd, 2012
03:27 PM ET
6 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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Filed under: 2012 • Florida • Immigration • Latinos • President Obama
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Obama 2012 - MOVE Forward America, NOT another round of DUBYA's FAILURES

    @WiredweirdinSF – The most incompetent, inept, corrupt, union toady president in history
    Yawn.. ZZzzzzz.. Still not an original thought in your head Wired? This catch-phrase of yours in so 38 seconds ago – every time I read it !! Thanks for playing.

    June 22, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  2. No fault of my own

    Hispanic invasion and the economy are one and the same, barry has no budget whatsoever as he destroys americas economy and aids illegal invaders from a foreign country, TREASON! Anything short of deportation is ILLEGAL! NO CONTROVERSY, NO DEBATE! NO BORDER NO PEACE!

    June 22, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  3. Darryl

    What a great speech.The POTUS is probally the best we've ever had.Only time will tell.He clearly has a vision and has been Nobody can compete with it.It is exactly what needs to happen to pull out of the worst ression we all have experienced and suffered through.He has kept almost all of his promises he told us when he was running for his election back in 2008.He has NOT changed at all on his vision,views &,direction.Im sure the republicans only wish they really had someone who can go head to head with him but they don't and they have Romney, but he really isn't going to cut it when it comes down to it.Romney just does not have what it takes to compete on thatkind of level.The President has always had a connection to the average person and you can't change that.Thats something you can't make somone have.It has to come from with-in and that it.Romneys speech in Florida was a disaster.He was totally frustrated and looked like he was dissappointed when people didn't start clapping when he would say something.The Latinos didn't like him to begin with and now? they really don't like him. The Latinos remember and know he said he would Veto the Dream Act.He is finished with the Latinos and so is Rubio by the way.They think Rubio is a traitor anyhow.It going to be a sad day for the Republicans come November.

    June 22, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. Obama 2012 - MOVE Forward America, NOT another round of DUBYA's FAILURES

    @Silence DoGood – This time I will probably go for the Green party because I will vote my conscience.
    Well, at least you have the intelligence to do so, and not waste a vote on the Repugs, who have no intention of providing anything they are promising the knuckle-draggers who have been brainwashed by Faux Noise Channel.

    June 22, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. SafeJourney

    Latinos/Hispanics know President Obama is on their side. As opposed to Romeny who wants Latinos to self deport.
    Romney, you will not win the general election. Repubs and RED states can not discriminate against an American group, whether it be Latinos, Women, students, blacks, gays, etc and expect them to vote for the repubs in the general election.

    June 22, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  6. Iamnotfooled

    Romney agasinst the Dept. of Education, against the Dream Act, wants to repeal Healthcare Act, Republicans blocking American Jobs Act that will produce 1.9 million jobs. Teachers ,fire fighters, police can be re-hired , schools fixed, roads, bridges,water systems, airports, ports, energy projects, sewers, equals jobs, jobs, jobs. Everything we need to push this economy on the right track and Republicans won't pass it. This is why people say the economy is on the wrong track, not President Obama's policies. Vote accordingly. Vote Democrat and they will fix this. They can't buy America!

    June 22, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. SafeJourney

    Pass the jobs bill stuck in the HOUSE teapublicans

    June 22, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  8. Four and The Door

    "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...
    But Obama had 2 years of getting everything on his wish list. Why didn't he do it permanently during 2009 or 2010? Because Latino Americans are only important to Obama on election year. How can they not see that? I think they do.

    June 22, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  9. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of OBAMA FAILURE

    Obama links economy and immigration in spirited defense
    Yes, because we all know that what this country needs is more illegal aliens and all of them to get amnesty and government benefits. Obama is a clear and present danger to this country and its economy. The more he speaks, the nuttier he gets.

    June 22, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. Name Pamma

    You are wrong

    June 22, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. Eden

    Not mad at this. My pops got the Reagan Amnesty but my mom is American so I'm good. Just make sure our citizens who are qualified to finish school aren't kicked out of cheaper Public Colleges. That's all I ask sir!

    June 22, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. Chris

    this guy is getting desperate...

    June 22, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Getoverit

    @Obama 2012 – MOVE Forward America, NOT
    another round of DUBYA's FAILURES...

    It's the truth, and worth repeating.

    June 22, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  14. Dante666

    Well – speaking strictly for myself. I am no better off no worse off than I was four years ago. I am older and pretty much cut spending to necessities. Gas prices are higher and general cost of living things like food higher. I still have health insurance at about the same rate and generally speaking – Nothing significant has happened pro or con.
    THAT EQUATES TO FOUR WASTED YEARS OF THIS ADMINISTRATION. WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT ANOTHER FOUR YEARS OF NOTHING? Beats the heck out of me – maybe those that don't have still want more from those that have – here is a tip – Get a job or move to someother place.

    June 22, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. trex

    ........LATINOS..............You KNOW who is best for YOU. Now, GO VOTE HIM BACK IN........................that other "person" has as much in common with you as, ...............well, as......................... a snail with a rocket ship. NOW, BLAST OFF AND VOTE O/B 2012..............

    June 22, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. Iamnotfooled

    @Name Pamma-–Wonder what holder has over Obama? President Obama involked executive privilege to protect Holder--you have it backwards! Expect nothing less from a birther!

    June 22, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. Dad Clark

    Chip and deport

    June 22, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  18. California Gary

    This president has accomplished quite a bit considering the GOP has tried to delay, water down, or kill everything he has tried to do. Just think where we would be right now if the GOP had put country ahead of party and worked with him on a few things. We need to vote enough of those jerks out of office to get the attention of the rest.......then maybe we can start to thrive during the next term.

    June 22, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  19. Dan

    A "spirited" and "impassioned" speech is not what we need; what we need is a leader. The President already had the power to enact comprehensive immigration reform. He did not do so. The fact that Mitt Romney says he will do this or that doesn't matter too much...President Obama has proven with action (or lack there of) that immigration is not a to issue to him. I'd imagine that if he starts losing the Latino vote, it will become an issue for him.

    June 22, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  20. Four and The Door

    Pass the jobs bill stuck in the HOUSE teapublicans
    Republicans in The House are doing exactly what we sent them to do in November 2010. Cut out-of-control federal government spending. Don't be fooled by spending bills masquerading as "jobs" bills. There is already enough clear data to show that Obama's big economic experiment only increases debt. No thanks. Kill it.

    June 22, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  21. Moderate Independent

    @Donna: we have always had people that struggled in our country and we always will it is a fact of life. We have people that will not do the jobs others do. I think some of us have become spoiled, lazy, rude and snobs. Latinos do jobs that most of us just will not do. Latinos are not the only illegal immigrants we have. They are just the ones the past several years that are scapegoats for miserable racist people.

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

    @donna, yes, but GOP shipped jobs to china, India etc, and lost on immigration all these 50 years. Ask yourself, what did Reagan do for 8years, bush did for 8 years, bush-1 did for 4 years, yes, obama wants to pass immigration reform, for the last three years, foreigner getting driving license is tough- true. No love lasts for Obama either, but Obama is doing very right thing. It is the basic reason I as of pride say to all-yes, on obama12.
    PS: mitt is myth, sells nation to china, India, true.

    June 22, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  23. Larry L

    @our and The Door

    "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...
    But Obama had 2 years of getting everything on his wish list. Why didn't he do it permanently during 2009 or 2010?
    President Obama only had a filibuster-proof Senate for about four months. He also had a hand full of DINOs afraid of the Tea Party in their home states. Democrats tend to vote less in lock-step than the pledge-taking, obstructionist Republicans. The Republicans have used the filibuster 137 times to obstruct every initiative – even those they approved in committee. You continue to weasel around to try and spin the truth. You are always nothing more than the voice of Fox News – not honest about your facts or your intentions.

    June 22, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  24. Myviewis

    Obama has given Latino illegal immigrants 2 years to hope and a work permit. I think this more than makes the Latino community happy, they will all vote for Obama and he has nothing to worry with Romney. Obama knew what makes Latinos happy and he played his cards right.

    June 22, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  25. Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe Say_Nothing -Do_Nothing_Flip_n_Flopper Greedy_One_Percent

    Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe says Hispanics should hold him to his promise!!!

    Yep, he promised he'd veto the DREAM ACT and model his Etch-A-Sketch Immigration Laws to that of Arizona!...that's a promise the Latino's can take to the BANK & the voting booth come Nov!!!!


    June 22, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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