President Obama met with Latino media personalities Thursday to discuss immigration issues, reaffirming his commitment to reform and appealing to a key electorate block for his 2012 campaign.
Obama and his aides met for an hour in the White House Roosevelt Room with a dozen people, including actresses Eva Longoria and America Ferrera and several hosts of Hispanic news programs.
Attendees said the president reminded the group of his push to create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who live in America but don’t have legal status, the majority of whom are Latino. He said that Democrats in Congress would continue to call for passage of the Dream Act, a provision that would make it easier for the children of illegal immigrants to gain legal status by serving in the U.S. military or graduating from college.
Obama did not promise to reduce the number of deportations of people who are in United States illegally, they said. Those deportations have increased under his administration.
“The president told us there are certain things he will not do, including the fact that some of the things being asked of him have never been done before,” said Jose Diaz-Balart, who hosts a news program on the Telemundo network.
It was the second time in a little over a week that the president had called a meeting of influential figures to discuss immigration reform. Last week, Obama and met with a group of political leaders from around the country — most of who support the Dream Act.
The meetings come as Obama begins a reelection campaign in which states with large Hispanic populations such as Nevada, Colorado and Florida are considered critical to winning a second term. Democratic Party officials even speak of winning Texas because of its growing Latino population, although they acknowledge that goal is a long shot.
On Friday Obama is scheduled to travel to Miami to address the Miami Dade College commencement ceremony. According to the college’s Web site, 69 percent of its students are Hispanic.
Longoria, speaking to reporters after the Thursday meeting, praised the president’s backing of the Dream Act. “He supported it 100 percent,” the star of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” said.
But Diaz-Balart said the president would need to take more steps to woo Latino voters. Sixty-seven percent of Latino voters backed Obama in 2008, but some polls show that his approval rating among Latinos has dipped below 50 percent.
Diaz-Balart said that Obama has done little for immigration reform in the last two years compared with issues such as health care.
“The silence is not golden,” Diaz-Balart said. “I think there is a sense of ‘Man, you promised us, you had the majority in the House and the Senate, and you spent so much political capital on other issues when you promised us and we came through for you.’ I think the president is probably aware of that.”