Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, October 1, 2014
President Obama deployed a top Cabinet secretary Wednesday to assure Hispanic leaders that the White House will take executive action this year to stop deportations for more illegal immigrants, trying to revive Hispanic voters’ backing of Democrats ahead of November’s elections.
“The question of executive action, my friends, is a ‘when’ question,” Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez assured attendees at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s convention.
Mr. Obama likely will deliver the same message when he speaks to the gathering Thursday–and will be met by protesters furious over his broken promise to issue executive action by the end of the summer to halt many deportations.
“During Hispanic Heritage Month, we urge the president to remember all the Latino families across the country separated because of his inaction,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, one of the groups organizing pickets outside of the convention center in Washington.
“For us to be told that the executive action’s going to happen after the election is–I’m sorry to tell you this–the height of political cynicism,” said Ana Navarro, a Republican campaign operative who wants the GOP to embrace an immigration bill. “I mean, could it be more obvious and more blatant? Can’t you at least lie to me and tell me that’s not why you’re doing it?”
Still, Ms. Navarro’s fellow Republicans “haven’t been all that good either” on the issue. She said while she believes most Republicans want to pass an immigration bill, they have been swamped by a vocal minority.
Mr. Obama’s job approval ratings have tumbled among Hispanics, from 74 percent in early 2013 to 52 percent now, according to Gallup.
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat and a leading party voice on the issue, said he is tired of immigrants having their interests shunted aside for political reasons.
He said Mr. Obama wouldn’t have put off action until after the election if the issue had been abortion rights or gay rights.
“I think he should have acted before the election,” Mr. Gutierrez told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute audience Wednesday, drawing enthusiastic applause. “All we did is make our people suffer even more, and the political issue of immigration is going to be there.”
Mr. Perez, the labor secretary, said Hispanics shouldn’t lose faith in Mr. Obama. He noted that the president’s commitment to immigration goes back to his time in the Illinois Senate.
“It is an issue that is all about his values and his leadership,” said Mr. Perez, whom Mr. Obama backed through a tricky confirmation battle in 2013 to become one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the administration.