Obama Speaks On Immigration Reform: Will It Meet Expectations?

Obama With Hispanic Caucus

President Barack Obama meets with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the State Dining Room of the White House, June 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

*This post has been updated to include a video of the President’s speech.*

Citizens and non-citizens across the nation were holding their breath in anticipation of President Obama’s speech on the iron-hot subject of immigration. Fi2W’s Valeria Fernandez was a guest on PRI’s The Takeaway hours before Obama took the stage. Listen to her speak about the immigrant community’s expectations for Obama and immigration reform:

The President spoke at American University in Washington, D.C. “on the need to fix our broken immigration system through comprehensive immigration reform.”  The speech came in a week in which Obama reentered the fray of immigration. On Monday, he spoke with immigration reform advocates, and on Tuesday, he met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to talk about immigration reform, after which the White House released a readout.

Watch the speech below, courtesy of The Uptake:

The event was attended by a number of high profile players in the immigration debate, including newcomer Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, who recently announced the creation of a Partnership for a New American Economy that he hopes will lead to immigration reform.

Some reform advocates are hopeful that Obama’s words will signal a true commitment by the White House to move forward on policy that does more than secure the border. Congressman Luis Guttierez (D-Ill.) was reported on abc.com to be optimistic:

“For months we have been demanding that this administration take action and be the lead on comprehensive immigration reform. And then, from the White House, we hear a president that’s committed and assertive and in command and in charge,” he said following the meeting. “So I think this Thursday we’re going to hear the president speak to the nation to have comprehensive immigration reform and why it’s important for him as a president.”

Others were skeptical, and anticipate more empty promises by the President in a tough election year for Congress. The Washington Post interviewed a number of advocates who met last weekend in San Diego to discuss prospects for reform:

“At this point, we’re looking at George W. Bush longingly,” joked Louie Gilot of the Border Network for Human Rights, based in El Paso. “We were promised change by the administration. But we’re not only getting the same enforcement-only policy, we’re getting even more of it.”

A big question is how the president will address SB 1070, and whether or not he’ll announce a lawsuit against the state of Arizona. Many reform advocates desire a court challenge, but not all.

We’ll be posting analysis of the speech tomorrow.

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Feet in 2 Worlds (Fi2W) is an independent media outlet, journalism training program, and launchpad for emerging immigrant journalists and media makers of color. Our work brings positive and meaningful change to America's newsrooms and has a broader impact on how immigration is reported and the ethnic and racial composition of news organizations.