A coalition of immigration activists and lawmakers has challenged Obama to use his executive powers to change U.S. immigration policy.
The campaign, called Change Takes Courage, will consist of events nationwide, including in Obama’s home state of Hawaii, in the coming months. It was launched a day after the president said he’ll push Congress to pass legislation that will grant citizenship to Latinos in college or the military, but quickly added that he’ll need “a little bit of help” from congressional Republicans.
White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest insists Obama is committed to immigration reform. The president’s broader agenda, Earnest said, includes a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, enhanced border security and cracking down on employers who hire illegal workers.
Despite declaring the need for immigration reform and pointing to the “political and mathematical reality” that bipartisan support is necessary, Obama hasn’t offered a blueprint or taken the lead with Congress. The newly empowered GOP, which has fought the president on nearly every issue, seems interested only in tighter border security and harsh sanctions for undocumented immigrants.
But according to the 2010 Census, Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority group and immigration is among their top issues. A recent poll from Latino Decisions, a public opinion firm, found that 70 percent of Hispanics approve of Obama, but only 43 percent said they’ll vote for him next year.
Change Takes Courage, backed by the group Fair Immigration Reform Movement, illustrates that gap. Using testimonials from families torn apart by the administration’s federal workplace raids, detentions and deportations, the group intends to pressure Obama to restart the national debate on illegal immigration.
“We know from his own words that President Obama understands the wrongs of our deeply flawed immigration system,” Eva Millona, an immigration activist, said in a statement announcing the campaign. Even if Congress won’t act, she said, “change can happen” if the president “can find the courage of his convictions.”
The Obama administration’s recent actions on immigration include a move by the Justice Department in July to block Arizona from enforcing a tough illegal immigration law and the DREAM Act to protect undocumented students and military enlistees from deportation, which gained some GOP support but died in last year’s lame-duck Senate.
“We can still get it done,” Obama told a town hall sponsored by the Univision cable network last week. “We’ve got to keep the pressure up on Congress.”