Journalist and TV personality Geraldo Rivera summed up the optimism of pro-immigrant activists and mostly Democrat politicians at the 13th annual U.S.-Mexico Congressional Border Issues Conference by saying he is confident President Barack Obama will keep his campaign promise to sign “comprehensive immigration reform” into law.
“Barack Obama is the first Hispanic president the same way Bill Clinton was the first black” president, Rivera said at the conference, which took place Thursday at the U.S. Capitol.
Rivera also said the Hispanic community should “give the president some slack” in keeping that promise on immigration reform, given the pressing problems with the economy and other priorities, including health care.
At the conference’s morning panel, experts and activists called on the Obama administration to champion “rational” immigration reform that would give the estimated 12 to 14 million people who are in the country illegally a path to citizenship.
Rivera proposed steps he said could be done “within the end of this week,” such as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordering the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to “stop the raids” and concentrate on stopping the drug cartels and Mexican gangs responsible for most of the more than 7,000 deaths south of the border in the last 14 months.
He also said that illegal aliens should be allowed to join the military, which could make them eligible to become citizens at the end of their service.
When asked by a participant at the event what could be done to get the media to support comprehensive immigration reform, Rivera said people who are against it have a “truly hateful, deep sentiment” and a “deep nativist thing.”
“Some of them have never seen a Hispanic person in person, much less an undocumented or illegal worker,” he said.
“You’re not going to get any help from the media, I can tell you that much,” Rivera said. “If you want to cure a low-rated program or unpopular host, all you have to do is bash an undocumented immigrant or illegal alien.”
“The reality is, the other side of the immigration debate controls the American media,” Rivera said.
Juan Hernandez, who has dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship and served as an advisor to former Mexican President Vicente Fox, moderated the panel.