On Thursday, President Obama addressed a Latino crowd at the Univision candidate forum. He was questioned about “Fast and Furious,” the recent attack on the consulate in Libya, education, and more. But the questions that many Latinos were anxiously awaiting had to do immigration.
To put things in context, when President Obama was a candidate, he promised that he would enact comprehensive immigration reform in his first term. When many in the Latino community thought that there was a possibility of real reform and progress on the immigration issue, the Obama administration went on to distinguish itself in detaining and deporting immigrants. At the same time as deportations have ramped up, the administration also took steps to militarize the border.
When asked about his biggest failure, the President took an opportunity to cater to the audience (or “Hispander” as some in the Latino community like to say) to say, “My biggest failure so far is we haven’t gotten comprehensive immigration reform done. But it’s not because for lack of trying or desire, and I’m confident we are going to accomplish that.”
The President then talked about the challenges of getting Republicans on board for immigration reform noting that some in the GOP had already been planning to obstruct anything the administration tried to push forward. In describing how difficult it has been to change the tone in Washington, D.C., the President talked about how the American people have to mobilize and put pressure on Congress to accomplish legislative goals.
President Obama told the Univision audience, “The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t change Washington from the inside, you can only change it from the outside. That’s how I got elected, and that’s how the big accomplishments like health care got done because we were able to mobilize the American people to speak out.”
Predictably pundits on the right pounced on President Obama’s remarks about changing Washington, especially since he had run for office in 2008 on the theme of change. Mitt Romney even went so far as to say that Obama had thrown the white flag of surrender, in saying that he can’t change things inside the nation’s capital. But if a politician is going to promote the concept of democracy, it can be argued that citizens have to be engaged in mobilizing and participating to bring about policy changes.