President Barack Obama is ramping up his efforts to drive Latinos to the polls, with an eleventh-hour warning that they could lose their shot at comprehensive immigration reform if they sit out the midterm elections.
Obama will team up with actress Eva Longoria on Tuesday for a conference call aimed at firing up the Latino community before the Nov. 2 elections. The president will use the call to highlight actions he has taken that benefit the Latinos, including “health insurance reform, Wall Street reform that curbs predatory lending, and new education policies that mean all of our children have a chance to learn the skills they need for today’s economy,” according to an e-mail by Organizing for America, Obama’s campaign arm.
The conference call comes after Obama defended his efforts to advance immigration reform during an interview Monday on Univision’s “Piolin por la Manana.”
“The fact that we have not got it done is something that frustrates me, and I know that it frustrates many people in the community,” said the president, who has taken heat from the Latino community for not delivering on a campaign promise to pass an overhaul in his first year in office.
But Obama said Latinos need to understand that their priority was not addressed in the past year and a half because Republicans “decided not to support it.” He cited Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) as one of 11 Senate Republicans who supported an overhaul four years ago but have since backed off.
“Until I can get some cooperation from the other side, then people who are anti-immigration reform can continue to block it,” he said.
The president cautioned that Latinos need to contribute to an “upsurge in voting in this election” and support Democrats if they want to keep immigration reform on the front burner in the next Congress.
“If the Latino community decides to sit out this election, then there will be fewer votes and it will be less likely to get done. And the other side, which is fighting against this, is not going to support it,” he said.
Immigration reform advocates say Obama’s get-out-the-vote message is already gaining traction among Latinos.
“There is growing enthusiasm among the Latino community, and he is tapping into that trend because he knows how crucial the vote can be in tight races,” said Katherine Vargas, a spokeswoman for the National Immigration Forum.