With a comprehensive immigration overhaul stalled on Capitol Hill, advocates have called on the president to move forward without congressional approval to halt the deportations, estimated at more than 1,000 per day.
House leaders said they will hold a policy meeting Thursday on issues important to the Latino community, including immigration, and they released a video to mark the start of Hispanic Heritage Month this week. But the video made no mention of immigration, and some lawmakers who support of a comprehensive overhaul said they fear the clock is running out as Congress and the White House turn to an extended debate over the budget and debt ceiling.
Advocates said they will keep pressure on the House, including a rally and concert on the Mall on Oct. 8 featuring a performance by Grammy-winning Latin group Los Tigres del Norte. Organizers expect the two-hour concert to draw tens of thousands of people to Congress’s doorstep, an important visual symbol that can add cultural weight to the political movement.
“A handful of extremists in the House of Representatives wants to stop anything progressive, anything that means something to working people, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants,” said Jaime Contreras, a vice president at the Service Employees International Union. “It’s time for Republican leaders to start standing up to the extremists and let them know that inaction is not an option for us. We will not stop until we win this fight.”
Obama has used targeted interviews with Spanish-language media to assure the Latino community that he remains committed to an overhaul of the nation’s border control laws. In the Telemundo appearance, Obama acknowledged the growing frustration in a community that overwhelmingly supported his reelection but might now be “losing heart” on a legislative solution on immigration.
Since announcing his push for an overhaul in a speech in Las Vegas in late January, the president has chosen to let Congress lead the debate, calculating that a more robust public campaign would anger Republicans and push away potential supporters.
Obama challenged House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring the Senate plan to the floor for a vote, predicting it would pass with bipartisan support even if the majority of the GOP caucus would vote against the bill.
“He shouldn’t be afraid of majority opinion on this thing,” Obama said. “If in fact the overwhelming majority of the American people think we need to do something on immigration — we’ve got a bipartisan bill — why not go ahead and let it come to the floor of the House and let’s see what happens?”