President Obama said today that his administration is “open to a new relationship with Cuba if the Cuban government starts taking the proper steps to open up its own country.”
“As long as I’m president, I will always be prepared to change our Cuba policy if and when we start seeing a serious intention on the part of the Cuban government to provide liberty for its people,” the president said in a roundtable discussion on Hispanic issues.
Obama cited the steps his administration has taken to “send a signal that we’re prepared to show flexibility and not be stuck in a Cold War mentality dating back to when I was born,” including changes to remittance laws and laws that relate to educational travel.
“What we haven’t seen is the kind of genuine spirit of transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us eliminating the embargo,” he said.
In order to fully engage, Obama stressed, the United States needs to “see a signal back from the Cuban government,” such as the release of political prisoners or the ability for people to express their opinions and petition their government.
“If we saw even those steps, those would be very significant, and we would pay attention and we would undoubtedly re-examine our overall approach to Cuba if we saw a serious movement in that direction,” the president said.
Back here at home, Obama expressed frustration with the perception that he could be doing more on his own to fix the nation’s immigration system, which he reiterated was a top priority.
“This notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce,” Obama said. “I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true.”
The president went on to point a finger at Republicans, saying they have stalled comprehensive immigration legislation. “In the past, we’ve seen bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately, over the last several years, what you’ve seen is the Republican Party move away from support of comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.
“We live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it. And if all the attention is focused away from the legislative process, then that is going to lead to a constant dead end. We have to recognize how the system works, and then apply pressure to those places where votes can be gotten and, ultimately, we can get this thing solved. And nobody will be a stronger advocate for making that happen than me.”