WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama assured Hispanics on Wednesday he was not walking away from immigration reform while expressing disappointment that he had not delivered on a 2008 promise to overhaul U.S. policy.
Obama, a Democrat who is ramping up his rhetoric against Republicans ahead of November 2 congressional elections, said only cooperation from both parties would allow reforms to advance.
He blamed Republicans for backing away from reform and urged Hispanics — an important and growing voting bloc — to continue giving him the support they gave during his presidential campaign.
“Now, I know that many of you campaigned hard for me, and understandably you’re frustrated that we have not been able to move this over the finish line yet. I am too,” he told a gala dinner for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, referring to immigration reform.
“But let me be clear: I will not walk away from this fight. My commitment is getting this done as soon as we can. We can’t keep kicking this challenge down the road.”
Immigration reform was one of a list of campaign promises Obama sought to realize after taking over the White House in 2009. But the issue largely fell behind other policy priorities such as healthcare and financial reform.
Obama blamed Republicans for slow progress on the issue and, putting a spin on his “Yes we can” campaign slogan, said the opposition party had adopted a platform of “no se puede” which, translated from Spanish, means roughly “No we can’t.”
“Is that a bumper sticker you want on your car?” he said.
Republicans, who could win majorities in both houses of Congress in November, stress that the United States has to secure its borders before tackling immigration reform on a broader scale. A Republican-controlled Congress would make it more difficult for Obama to achieve his policy goals.
Obama said disappointed supporters should keep pressuring him and his party to advance reform, but he urged them to stick with Democrats.
“You have every right to keep the heat on me and keep the heat on the Democrats, and I hope that you do,” he said.
“But don’t forget who is standing with you, and who is standing against you. Don’t ever believe that this election coming up doesn’t matter. ... Don’t forget who your friends are.”
Editing by Todd Eastham