President Obama brought his jobs pitch to the Hispanic community tonight, outlining the many ways in which the American Jobs Act would secure a better economic future for Hispanic Americans and urging them to call on Congress “to do the right thing.”
“This fight could not be more important for the people in this room, for the Latino community and for millions of Americans who need help,” Obama said at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Annual Gala in Washington. “Problems in the Latino community are problems for the entire American community. Our future is tied to how well the Latino community does.
“That’s why last week I asked Congress a simple question: In the face of a national emergency, can we finally put a stop to the political circus and actually do something to help the economy? Can we restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our founding?” Obama said at the black tie event kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month.
The president went on to tailor his pitch, explaining how the American Jobs Act would benefit students, teachers and small businesses in the Hispanic community and how it would help put money back in the hands of the middle class.
Obama repeated his plea for lawmakers to “stop playing politics” and put partisanship aside to take the steps necessary to grow the economy.
“If we’re going to do big things … we’re going to have to get Congress to act,” he said.
“Keep the heat on me, keep the heat on Nancy [Pelosi] and on the rest of the Democrats,” he added. “We feel good about where we’re at. If we’re being honest, we know the problem isn’t the members of Congress is this room. It’s the members of Congress who put party before country because they believe the only way to resolve our differences is to wait 14 months until the next election.”
Once again, Obama called on the American public to “lift up your voice, make yourself heard” and tell Congress to pass the jobs bill.
“We’ve always been a nation full of vision,” he said. “Whether your ancestors landed at Ellis Island or came over on a slave ship or crossed the Rio Grande, we are all connected and we all rise and fall together. That’s the America that I believe in. That’s the American that you believe in. That’s the American that we can once more have as long as we are all working together.”
Continuing his call to action, Obama also urged Congress to pass the DREAM Act. The president said that it was “heartbreaking” to see Republican lawmakers stand in the way of the legislation, which would provide a path to legal residency for hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants first brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.
“I will do everything in my power to make the DREAM Act a reality. It’s been a long and frustrating road for all of us. Republicans helped write the DREAM Act because they knew it was the right thing to do for our country. … Now, for the first time in a decade, the bill doesn’t have a single Republican co-sponsor, not one,” Obama said. “The only thing that changed was politics in Washington. That’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking to see innocent young people denied the right to earn an education or serve in our military because of their parents’ actions and because of the actions of a few politicians in Washington.”
On immigration, the president said that reforming the nation’s system is “crucial” to the economy and that he wished he could circumvent Congress and pass a comprehensive policy.
“We need an immigration policy that works,” he said. “I wish I had a magic wand and could make this all happen on my own. There are times where – until Nancy Pelosi is speaker again – I would like to work my way around Congress … but we live in a Democracy and, at the end of the day, I can’t do this all by myself under our democratic system.”
Before his remarks, Obama pointed out several of the prominent Hispanic Americans in attendance, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Obama also gave a “special shout out” to Ray Decerega, the CHCI program director, who delivered an elbow to the president’s lip during a basketball game last November, resulting in 12 stitches for Obama.
“Not many people can give the president of the United States stitches in his lip and get away with it. Ray is in unique company,” the president quipped.
“I sent him a photograph of the moment as he was throwing his elbow at me and said he’s the only person to ever do that who the Secret Service didn’t arrest,” Obama said. “And I hear he’s pretty tough off the basketball court too.”