'I am not king': Obama tells Latino voters he can't conjure immigration reform alone

The president, in a push to get out the Latino vote, says Republicans in Congress have been a stumbling block. A recent poll showed Latinos generally unenthusiastic about the coming elections.

October 25, 2010|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times

In an effort to energize Latino voters, President Obama defended his administration’s efforts to work for a comprehensive immigration plan, while adding that he was frustrated by the failures of Congress to deal with the issue.

In an interview with Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, recorded when Obama was in Los Angeles last week, the president blamed Republicans for refusing to work on the needed legislation. As he has in the past, Obama noted that 11 Republican senators voted for immigration reform four years ago but walked away from the issue in this midterm-election year.

“The fact that we have not got it done is something that frustrates me, and I know that it frustrates many people in the community,” Obama said, according to a transcript of the show, “Piolin por la Mañana.” “The problem that we have is, is that until I can get some cooperation from the other side, then people who are anti-immigration reform can continue to block it.”When Piolin asserted that it appeared that the Obama administration had worked less hard on immigration than  it had on other issues, such as healthcare, Obama disagreed.

“My cabinet has been working very hard on trying to get it done, but ultimately, I think somebody said the other day, I am president, I am not king. I can't do these things just by myself. We have a system of government that requires the Congress to work with the executive branch to make it happen. I'm committed to making it happen, but I've gotta have some partners to do it,” Obama said.

Latinos were a key part of the Democratic coalition that helped put Obama in the White House in 2008, but a recent poll by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that they were generally unenthusiastic. The poll found that 51% of registered Latinos said they would vote in this election compared with 70% of the general population.

The survey, based on bilingual telephone interviews with 1,375 Latinos from Aug. 17 through Sept. 19, shows that 65% of registered Latino voters say they plan to support a Democrat while 22% say they prefer a Republican. That is about the same as the party identification: 62% of Latinos say they favor Democrats, and a quarter saying they favor Republicans. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

“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,” Obama said. “Let me say this as an African American. We worked for decades on civil rights. Civil rights didn't come after one year. 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. Even after Dr. King gave his ‘I Have a Dream" speech, it still took years before African Americans achieved full citizenship in this country.

“Change isn't easy," Obama said. "It doesn't happen overnight.”

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