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Obama Between Reform and S.B. 1070

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Translated from America’s Voice en Español.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As an Obama Administration delegation traveled to Arizona to discuss border security and SB 1070 with officials there — and in advance of a speech he will give on Thursday on the need for comprehensive immigration reform — the president held a meeting Monday at the White House with representatives of pro-immigrant organizations at which he reiterated his commitment to the issue.

Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane and Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), who attended the meeting, told America’s Voice that Obama emphasized support for reform but pointed to the difficulty of securing the votes needed to advance it through Congress when Republicans are so reluctant to cooperate with Democratic leadership.

Bur Salas said that even though she is sure Obama’s commitment is real, the White House has to do more to “connect” with the suffering of people who are affected on a day-to-day basis by  the Administration’s strict enforcement measures and the lack of reform.

“I feel that he (Obama) is committed to immigration reform, but the commitment is very intellectual. He has to connect a little more with the urgency and suffering of our community…to connect directly with reality, because at the moment it seems like he doesn’t grasp the urgency. We believe him, but at the end of the day people don’t believe that under his leadership anything has changed in their lives,” Salas said.

The activist added that the president assured meeting attendees that “in the coming days we’ll take concrete steps.”

As various outlets have reported, it’s possible that the Department of Justice will announce this week whether or not it plans to challenge Arizona law SB 1070. In the absence of a federal challenge, the law will go into effect on July 29th.

Salas said that at the meeting, groups reminded the president that, independently of legislative action on immigration reform, “there are things in his hands that he can do to keep our people from being deported at the same rates they’re being deported now.”

The White House said that Obama told attendees that “he’s planning to give a speech soon on the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform.” On Tuesday, it was announced that this speech would take place at American University on Thursday.

In Arizona on Monday, DHS officials announced that almost half (524) of the 1,200 National Guard troops Obama requested earlier this year have been sent to the Arizona-Mexico border.