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Obama immigration speech in Texas: a bald plea to Hispanic voters

The partisan tone of Obama's speech on immigration reform and the barbs he aimed at Republicans made it clear he was courting Hispanic voters whose support he will need in 2012.

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But Democratic leaders in the Senate plan another vote at some point anyway on the Dream Act, if only to force the Republicans to vote on the issue again and drive a wedge between legislators and voters. Supporters of comprehensive reform are still smarting over the lack of progress in the early part of Obama’s presidency.

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“Obama has been talking about immigration reform since the 2008 campaign, so another speech on the importance of immigration reform is nothing new,” says Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington, Seattle. “He promised to act on immigration reform when he had 60 seats in the Senate and a big majority in the House, but nothing got done. So another speech under the current divided government in Congress brings even less hope of actually moving forward on this issue.”

In the April 2011 ImpreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking poll, Obama maintained a 73 percent job approval rating among Hispanic registered voters, yet only 41 percent said they were certain to vote for Obama in 2012, Mr. Barreto notes. Further, when asked if the Democratic Party is doing a good job of outreach to Latinos, just 47 percent said yes, and 53 percent said no. But support for the GOP remains even lower, with only 21 percent saying the Republicans are doing a good job of reaching out to Latinos.

Barreto also questioned the Obama administration’s deportation of thousands of parents of US-born, American citizen children. “Giving a new speech at the border does not change [that] fact,” he said.

“I know that the increase in deportations has been a source of controversy,” Obama said. “But I want to emphasize: We are not doing this haphazardly; we are focusing our limited resources on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not just families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income. And as a result, we increased the removal of criminals by 70 percent.”

Republicans were not impressed by the president’s speech.

“The president has again called for amnesty for illegal immigrants without offering a single proposal to actually improve the security of our borders,” said Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Representative King said the Government Accountability Office has determined that only 15 percent of the Southwest border is under “operational control.”

“The time has come for real action, not words,” he said.

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