Obama pleads for bipartisan support on immigration
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
OTTUMWA, Iowa – President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned of harassment against Hispanics under Arizona’s tough new immigration law, saying such “poorly conceived” measures can be halted if the federal government fixes America’s broken immigration system for good.
Obama pledged to bring his own party along, pleading with Republicans to join in as the only realistic hope to solve a politically volatile problem.
He offered a fresh, stern criticism of a new Arizona law that allows police to question anyone about their immigration status if they have reason to suspect they are in the country illegally. He said it targets people who look they like might be illegal immigrants.
“Now suddenly if you don’t have your papers, and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to get harassed – that’s something that could potentially happen,” Obama said of the Arizona measure. “That’s not the right way to go.”
The Mexican government warned its citizens Tuesday to use extreme caution if visiting Arizona because of the tough new law.
Obama’s comments came on the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were critical of Arizona’s new law, and Holder said the federal government may challenge it. The president sought to step up Washington’s will to get an immigration deal done.
“I will bring the majority of Democrats to the table in getting this done,” Obama said in response to a question at a town hall in south-central Iowa. “But I’ve got to have some help from the other side.”
Obama said he hoped to get a deal done “sometime soon” – a politically vague timetable in an election year with a shrinking window for legislative action.
Starting a two-day, three-state Midwestern trip, Obama’s broader message was about economic revival. Back in Iowa, the state that jump-started his White House bid, Obama sought to reassure wary Iowa voters with a message he hopes will resonate in the fall elections: The economic recovery hasn’t reached everyone, but progress is being made. He’s not on the ballot this year, but his party’s control of Congress is at stake, along with dozens of governors’ seats and state legislatures.
On immigration, Obama said he wants a federal law that would secure the borders and require illegal immigrants to register, pay a fine, learn English, take responsibility for having broken the law and get in the back of the line before others who are seeking U.S. citizenship.
He said if all of those challenges are handled in one comprehensive measure, then “we can once again be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”
He said Arizona’s law is poorly conceived, but it is equally unfair for the state to have to deal with hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.
In Washington, Napolitano also voiced reservations about the new state law, saying it could siphon federal money and staff from hunting down dangerous immigrants. Napolitano, a Democrat, was Arizona’s governor before taking her Homeland Security job in Obama’s Cabinet.
The critical comments by the nation’s top law enforcement official and the Cabinet secretary responsible for enforcing immigration laws came four days after Napolitano’s Republican successor in Phoenix signed a law designed to crack down on illegal aliens.
Authorities in suburban Chicago said 24 immigration reform protesters were arrested and cited for disorderly conduct after sitting on a street to block a van carrying detainees from a federal detention center.
The activists say they’re tired of waiting for Obama to make good on his vow for immigration reform and are shifting their tactics, including more civil disobedience at May 1 immigrant rights rallies.