"Our patriotism is not based on race, ethnicity or religious belief." -President Barack ObamaA day after Mitt Romney delivered a speech to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO)?a speech most notable for what Romney did not say (like whether he would actually abandon his "self deportation" plan or embrace the DREAM Act)?the president of the United States spoke to the same group this afternoon.
The president, not needing to worry about placating a racist wing of his party, was able to lay out clearly what his immigration policies are and will be if reelected. The president was introduced by the Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, the first Latina to serve in that capacity.
Currently the president holds a wide lead over Romney among Latino voters. WaPo polling shows Obama with a 68-30 lead, along the lines of the president's margin over John McCain in 2008. The president's initiative last week can only help.
After being introduced by Secretary Solis, the president received a warm welcome and in excellent Spanish said it was "a great pleasure to be amongst so many friends." It certainly felt that way based on the reception he received.
The president obliquely referenced Romney as "the person who addressed you yesterday" and then contrasted his view that America is a place "where you can make it if you try no matter if you came on the Mayflower or slave ships or through Ellis Island."
The president said "people do not come here looking for handouts," in contrast to the GOP view that Latinos come to America looking to have "anchor babies" to live on welfare.
The president then expanded his message to connect the aspirations of Latinos to those of average Americans?getting a good job, working hard, having health coverage, saving for retirement, getting a good education for our kids and helping our kids to have better lives than we did. To the president, Latinos are not the "Other" that Republicans want Americans to fear, they are Americans.
The president stressed the importance of being able to obtain affordable health insurance, especially for Latinos, who have the highest rate of being uninsured of any group in the nation. The president stressed that the Affordable Care Act did more to bring the possibility of health care and insurance to all Americans and Latinos than any other measure in the history of the nation. The unstated premise of the president's remark is that Romney, Republicans and the radical Republican Roberts Court want to throw that advance out.
Interestingly, the president devoted the beginning of his speech to non-immigration policy issues that he see as being especially important to Latinos. He stresses that the Republican plan is to basically do nothing but count on the so called "job creators." The president said "prosperity in this country does not come from the top down. It comes from the middle class."
The president then pivoted to the immigration policy issue?and states unequivocally that we need an immigration policy that welcomes people ready to embrace the American Dream of hard work, education and opportunity. The president flatly states our current immigration policy is broken and must be reformed. But not Republican wall building, racial profiling "reform," but reform that was once embraced by Republicans like George Bush and Jeb Bush and 23 Republican senators. Today's Republican Party rejects this approach and the president said he was forced to act and will act with or without the help of Congress.
"We should have passed the DREAM Act long ago and we would have except the Republicans blocked it!" said the president. The president flatly said the Republicans blocked it because of politics. And the president acted to remove the specter of deportation over kids who have worked hard, want to serve their country and want to do more.
But the president insisted we have to do more. "I have said time and again, send me the Dream Act and I will sign it right away." And he said he will work with anyone from any party to address the problem.
We have to give "the DREAM Act kids" a sense of hope. But Romney has promised to veto the Dream Act and, the president says, we should take him at his word. "I believe that would be a tragic mistake," the president said.
The president concluded his remarks by noting that his personal story is the very essence of the American Dream?how his father came to the United States to give him the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. And the story continues, as he fights for the opportunities to be passed along to his own children and to all of American's children.
"Si se puede!" said the president. And he will fight for every American child, white, black, Latino, Asian, of any stripe or creed, for their chance to DREAM the American Dream.
"SI SE PUEDE!" Great speech by the president.