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Obama Threw ‘Ice’ on Immigration Reform, Gutierrez Says

A Democratic Congressman from Barack Obama’s home state accused the president Thursday of throwing “buckets of ice” on comprehensive immigration reform during remarks at a White House Cinco de Mayo reception.

“Cinco de Mayo was used as an event to tell everybody we’re not going to do it this year,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ immigration task force. “English may be our second language, but we understand what ‘begin’ means when it’s May of an election year.”

Gutierrez was referring to comments Obama made Wednesday night during a Rose Garden reception, in which the president said he wanted to “begin work this year” on comprehensive immigration reform.

“It means we’re not going to end it this year,” Gutierrez said of Obama’s comments, which set off alarm bells among Latino and immigration reform advocacy groups.

Gutierrez and other Hispanic lawmakers have been critical of Obama for failing to follow through with a campaign pledge to pass immigration reform in his first year in office.

“What happened to ‘Immigration’s going to pass in the first year of my administration?’ Now we’re going to begin?” he said.

Some Democrats critical of the lack of action on immigration reform had backed off a bit in recent weeks as it began to look like Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) might make a concentrated effort to pass a bill out of the Senate. But Obama’s comments prompted a new round of fire.

Obama owes his presidency — at least in part — to the high number of Latinos who turned out to vote for him, based largely on the belief that he would make good on his promise to press hard and quickly for comprehensive immigration reform, Gutierrez said. Now many of those voters feel as though they have been sold a bill of goods, he added.

“It is his responsibility to move it forward,” Gutierrez said. “He was rewarded for raising the issue of comprehensive immigration reform with an unprecedented number of votes.”

Last month, Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said in a radio interview that Latinos view Obama with “suspicion” and question his priorities since he failed to follow through with a pledge to pass immigration reform in his first year in office.

“The president made a promise,” Becerra said during the interview. “He hasn’t fulfilled that promise.”

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