Obama, who for the past two years missed the annual gala held by
the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, will return to the group and
reiterate his ongoing commitment to immigration reform, according to
a White House official.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said Obama also will
say he intends to fix as much of the U.S. immigration system as he
can by using his presidential powers.
Obama's speech could set a high-water mark with Hispanic voters, who
are so important to Democrats and their hopes of holding the White
House in 2016. If so, it would be another twist in a relationship
that at times resembles that of an old married couple repeatedly
squabbling and making up.
Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a leading
advocate for comprehensive immigration legislation, illustrated the
difficult ties Hispanic-Americans have had with Obama during the
past six years.
"The president of the United States made a promise in 2008, during
the campaign, that he'd get it done in 2009 and 2010, '11, '12,"
Gutierrez told Reuters, referring to a revamp of an outdated U.S.
"It's clear that anybody that looks at this says, 'Wow, we weren't
the priority we should have been and we weren't the priority he
promised we'd be,'" Gutierrez added.
Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked bipartisan
immigration legislation passed by the Senate in 2013, and the Latino
community has demanded Obama deliver on a promise to use his
executive authority to ease deportations of some of the nearly 12
million undocumented people in the country.
It is a step he had promised he would take at the end of summer,
only to delay it because of fears it could hurt Democrats in
conservative states in November's midterm congressional elections.
[to top of second column]
For all of the friction between Hispanics and Obama, Gutierrez had
no harsh words for the Democratic president in the run-up to his
Thursday dinner speech, only great expectations.
"It's going to be good news, and I think tomorrow is his platform
for saying, 'I've come here to tell you we're going to get this done
before the end of the year' and he's going to tell us a little bit
about it," Gutierrez said.
As Obama is inside addressing the Hispanic lawmakers, some Latino
groups aim to picket outside to register their anger over what the
National Day Laborer Organizing Network calls "community-crushing
delays" on executive action.
"More than anything, the question to the president is: 'How are you
going to make sure that Latinos can trust you again?'" said Cristina
Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, an immigrant youth
organization that has pushed Obama to slow deportations.
(Writing and additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by
John Whitesides and Ken Wills)
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