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President Obama Condemns Anti-Immigrant Law, HB 56, in Alabama

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President ObamaLast week on Wednesday, Antonieta Cadiz of La Opinion, the nation’s leading Spanish language newspaper, asked the President for his opinion on Alabama’s controversial law, HB 56. Obama was emphatic in his remarks, saying “It’s a bad law. The idea that we have children afraid to go to school, because they feel afraid that their immigration status will lead to being detained…It’s wrong…. This makes the law, not just anti-immigrant, but I believe it doesn’t match our essential values as a country.”

We welcome the President’s strong statement. Alabama seems intent on nothing less than an ethnic purge aimed at ridding the state of its Hispanic population. This amoral and unconstitutional law deserves to be condemned and we are grateful the President stepped up and did so. 

Below, you can find America’s Voice Education Fund’s translation of President Obama’s remarks.  For those of you who’d rather read the original, the article in Spanish can be found here.

LA OPINION: Obama affirms that Alabama law is anti-immigrant
President insists that Hispanic vote in key states can change immigration policy in Washington

Antonieta Cádiz, La Opinion

November 9, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama didn’t mince his words in criticizing, for the first time, Alabama’s immigration law. In a briefing with Hispanic media, Obama also acknowledged errors in immigration enforcement, while opening the door to the possibility of new administrative measures.

A little after 2:30 p.m., an animated Obama entered the Roosevelt Room, where he spoke for around 45 minutes with members of the Latino press. With his re-election campaign in full swing and only one year to go before the election, the President has recognized that “it will be a difficult race,” where every minute counts, in his effort to connect with voters.

Asked by Impremedia for his opinion on Alabama’s controversial law, HB 56, Obama was emphatic. “It’s a bad law. The idea that we have children afraid to go to school, because they feel afraid that their immigration status will lead to being detained…It’s wrong. We’re already seeing the impact in some school districts and high schools, where 20 or 25 percent of children aren’t going to class,” he said.

“The notion that if a Catholic priest drives an undocumented worker to the hospital, he could be criminally charged; that people can be stopped in the streets and harassed or checked (for status)…All this makes the law, not just anti-immigrant, but I believe it doesn’t match our essential values as a country,” he affirmed.

Regarding immigration, Obama said that he will keep working for the viability of the DREAM Act. “I will make it a part of my campaign and I will talk about it extensively,” he stated emphatically.

“We’re examining detention policy, so that we can execute it in the most humane way possible. I think there’s a wide range of administrative measures we can take, not all of which are in progress now. We’ve organized working groups, trying to make sure that everything we can do administratively, we make happen,” he said.

With reference to deportations and separation of families, the president acknowledged errors. “It’s a real problem, I’ve instructed the Department of Homeland Security and all the agencies that as a basic principle, if parents are being deported, they have access to their kids. They have to be able to make arrangements, so that the children can go with them or be left with relatives. I don’t think this is functioning perfectly now,” he commented.

“I’m not here to pretend that this hasn’t happened, and I think we have to keep putting pressure on those responsible for administering the program, to make sure that children aren’t torn from their parents without due process and the possibility to stay with their children.”

A study published in November by the Applied Research Center (ARC) showed that at least 5,000 children are in foster care in the wake of their parents being detained or deported.

On Mexico—only one day after Attorney General Eric Holder said that the country is losing the battle to stop illegal arms traffic—Obama didn’t go quite that far. “Holder is in the right insofar as the flow of arms is a large problem and we’ve taken various steps to confront it; in the same way that it’s impossible to completely stop the flow of drugs from south to north, it’s impossible to stop all the guns being trafficked from north to south, but we can do a better job than we’ve done so far,” he insisted.

Asked by La Opinión about his Administration’s push to reinstate the assault weapons ban, he insisted that at the moment he doesn’t have a “strategy of new laws. We have a strategy for enforcing the laws on the books. Drug trafficking, ‘straw buyers’…it’s illegal now. Our goal is to be sure that we’re enforcing that.”

On the topic of the 2012 elections and the Hispanic vote, the president looked optimistic and insisted that the campaign will show fundamental differences.

“It would be hard to have a more clear contrast than the one we see between what the Republicans support, and what the Democrats and I back. If there’s a high level of participation from Latinos in the election, in states that are very important to the presidential election, it will send an explicit message that we need to pass immigration reform and maybe then the political dynamic could be different, coming into my second term,” he explained.

“I don’t think that my campaign has to use strategies like showing misleading television ads. We may just run clips of the Republican debates verbatim.  We won’t even comment on them, we’ll just run those in a loop, and people can make up their own minds,” he said with a smile.