Obama Assembles All-Star Cast For Immigration Talks

WASHINGTON (AP) – His immigration overhaul stalled, President Barack Obama is enlisting an array of voices, including Latino entertainment and media stars, to help jump-start legislation and reassure crucial but restless Hispanic voters that he has not abandoned his campaign pledge to change the law.

Obama’s political advisers see tremendous potential in a growing Latino electorate. But Obama, who won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008, faces a disenchanted Latino community, angry over a record number of deportations and an impasse on revamping immigration laws, and fearful of tough state immigration laws such as one passed in Arizona.

On Thursday, the president invited a dozen influential Spanish-language television anchors and radio personalities as well as comely Latino actresses who have been active in Hispanic causes. Among the high-profile Latinos was Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, who in 2006 helped mobilize hundreds of thousands of protesters in Los Angeles and across the nation against enforcement-only immigration proposals. Others at the White House were actresses Eva Longoria and America Ferrera and television figures Don Francisco of Univision and Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo.

In a summary describing the meeting, the White House said Obama stressed his commitment to a comprehensive overhaul and pledged to intensify his efforts “to lead a civil debate on this issue in the coming weeks and months.”

But immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants has stalled even when Democrats controlled both chambers in 2009 and 2010. Its prospects are even more remote now that Republicans control the House.

Obama also voiced disappointment in Congress’ failure to pass legislation that would have provided a path to legal status for law-abiding young people brought to the United States as children who either plan to attend college or join the military. He asked the Latino media and entertainment figures to use their influence to help “elevate the debate.”

Participants said Obama was pressed to do something about the record 393,000 illegal immigrants forced to leave the country last year, but Obama indicated that without congressional action his hands were tied.

In its summary, the White House said: “The President also noted that the only way to fix what’s broken about our immigration system is through legislative action in Congress, and that he cannot unilaterally change the law.”

Speaking to reporters, Longoria said: “We like to blame Obama for the inaction, but he can’t just disobey the law that’s written.”

Also attending along with Francisco and Diaz-Balart were BDarbara Bermudo, Lily Estefan, Vanessa Hauc and MarDia Elena Salinas, all hosts or anchors of Univision or Telemundo, the primary Spanish-language channels in the United States.

The session comes just a week after Obama invited about 70 elected officials and religious, law enforcement, business, labor, and civil rights figures to help build support for a long-stalled overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.

The flurry of immigration activity at the White House illustrates both the desire by Obama and his advisers to show engagement on the issue and to halt any potential slide in Hispanic support. Obama political advisers believe Latino voters could reconfigure the political landscape, shoring up support in swing states such as Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and North Carolina and providing a stronger foothold in states that John McCain won in 2008 but that have grown more Hispanic in recent years, such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do to fix an immigration system that’s broken,” Obama told donors in New York City Wednesday evening.

To emphasize his point, a group of demonstrators on the motorcade route held handmade signs and chanted: “Obama. Escucha. Estamos en la lucha” — “Obama. Listen. We are in the struggle.”

At the same time, Republicans have shown some success electing Latinos to high profile offices, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. But Republican pollsters concede that their party is still perceived as anti-immigrant, a perception that hurts them at the ballot box.

“Both parties at this point are losing an incredible opportunity,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum and a participant in last week’s White House meeting. “You have a Democratic administration that is deporting more people than ever. And you have Republican leadership both nationally and locally, looking to replicate Arizona laws.

“So the Asian, the Latino the immigrant voter is asking the question, ‘Where do I go?”‘.

Diaz-Balart, a Telemundo news anchor and host and brother of Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, said Thursday’s meeting was encouraging because the Hispanic community had not heard from Obama since the campaign, when he targeted Latino voters with a pledge to push for an immigration overhaul.

“The silence was not golden,” said Diaz-Balart.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Keeping it real

    If you are Hispanic and want to live on government welfare, them Obama is your guy. HOWEVER, if you want to work hard and own your own business, this is the LAST guy you need. Now I see all kinds of business’s that have Hispanic sir names. I really do not think Hispanic folks are lazy by nature, at least the ones I know and work with are not. And if you build a business and want to pass it on to your son or daughter, Obama wants around a 50% inheritance tax because you worked too hard???? SO, think about it real hard before you belly up to voting booth, you could be falling into the trap

    • C Bauer

      It’s SURNAMES, genius. LEARN ENGLISH!

  • Pat

    Notice who wasn’t represented at this meeting…the American People. No one there represented the ones that are paying a heavy price for illegal immigration.

  • rubbercow

    Piolin came here illegally. For both parties, this is only about votes. What is best for the country isn’t even a part of their calculus. Sickening.

  • j

    Hey President Obama it doesnt take an “All Star Cast” to enforce the laws that are already there.

    • les

      i agree . this is just more bs from our candya## government !!!!!!!!!

  • TAS

    The GOP is perceived as ANTI-IMMIGRANT, yet under the Obama Administration, there have been more deportations that in the Bush years? LOL. Unbelievable.

  • C Bauer

    This is Obama’s modus operandi – assembling an “All-Star Cast” of people so he can drone on and act like he’s listening. Remember when he had an assemblage of business leaders meet with him on unemployment and how to stimulate the economy? A lot of good that did. He obviously didn’t listen. This guy’s a clueless moron and ALL SHOW. He’s the proverbial pig with a silk hat / a child on the world’s stage. He makes Bush and Carter look like geniuses.

  • Rick McDaniel

    Because Obama has demonstrated, clearly, that he not only wants to do NOTHING to stop illegal immigration, and indeed that he has ordered the Border Patrol NOT to arrest illegals crossing the border, that anything he does, about illegal immigration, is NOT going to be in the best interest of this country!

    It is indeed imperative, that no legislation he supports, about illegal immigration, be allowed to pass, as it will NOT be, in the best interest of this country. On the contrary, it will add additional tax payer burdens to our citizens, and flood our country with more crime, drugs, and violence.

  • Lente Loco

    Sabado Gigante at the White House. To say Obama is a stooge would be a disservice to stooges. Eva Longoria chimes in on immigration? She was born in Corpus Christi! JEEEEEEESUS KEEERIST!!!

  • C Bauer

    What an absolute buffoon this president is. Can you imagine other “what if” headlines? Obama assembles all-star cast to address racism. Among the panelists is Ralph Feinnes, who played a Nazi officer in Schindler’s List, Edward Norton, who played a transformed racist in American History X, and Dave Chappelle, who starred in his own sketch about a blind black man who led a white supremacist organization. OR Obama assembles all-star cast to address the economy. Among the panel is Michael Douglas, who played Gordon Gekko in the Wall Street movies, Michael J. Fox, who played a budding business tycoon in The Secret Of My Success, and Gary Dahl, who invented the Pet Rock.

    Christ, what an imbecile.

  • stupidis

    everyone wants the hispanic vote,of which about 20% are americans and the other 30% are here illegally. if i were an german here illegally i couldn’t vote , what makes being an hispanic any differant. being a white born ex-marine,nobody wants my vote. go to hell you traitors in washington and when my liberties are taken from me and given to illegals then i will take to arms to get my country back.

  • Hemroidious

    I think that Hispanics are smarter than those who voted for Obammo.

  • Steve Johnson


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