Obama dedicated most of his press conference to the following topics: auto industry and financial crisis, Guantanamo torture records, the swine influenza outbreak, Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan wars, abortion, the possible absolute Democratic majority in the Senate among other topics. Obama mentioned the words “Latinos" and "Hispanics” twice when asked about immigration and unemployment. Watch a video at the end of this post.
U.S. President Barack Obama walks through the halls of the White House after holding his third nationally televised prime-time news conference April 29, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about the accomplishments of the first 100 days of his presidency. Photo Getty Images via Daylife.
On immigration president Obama confirmed his intention of pushing for a federal immigration legislation reform but he wasn’t specific on a time frame, only he said that we wants to move the process this year.
This question was asked by Lori Montenegro, the DC correspondent of Telemundo TV.
OK. Lori Montenegro?
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, when you met with the Hispanic Caucus a few weeks ago, reports came out that the White House was planning to have a forum to talk about immigration and bring it to the forefront.
Going forward, my question is, what is your strategy to try to have immigration reform? And are you still on the same timetable to have it accomplished in the first year of your presidency?
And, also, I'd like to know if you're going to reach out to Senator John McCain , who is Republican and in the past has favored immigration reform?
OBAMA: Well, we reach out to -- to Senator McCain on a whole host of issues. He has been a leader on immigration reform. I think he has had the right position on immigration reform. And I would love to partner with him and others on what is going to be a critical issue. We've also worked with Senator McCain on what I think is a terrific piece of legislation that he and Carl Levin have put together around procurement reform. We want that moved, and we're going to be working hard with them to get that accomplished.
What I told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is exactly what I said the very next day in a town hall meeting and what I will continue to say publicly, and that is we want to move this process.
We can't continue with a broken immigration system. It's not good for anybody. It's not good for American workers. It's dangerous for Mexican would-be workers who are trying to cross a dangerous border.
OBAMA: It is -- it is putting a strain on border communities, who oftentimes have to deal with a host of undocumented workers. And it keeps those undocumented workers in the shadows, which means they can be exploited at the same time as they're depressing U.S. wages.
So, what I hope to happen is that we're able to convene a working group, working with key legislators like Luis Gutierrez and Nydia Velazquez and others to start looking at a framework of how this legislation might be shaped.
In the meantime, what we're trying to do is take some core -- some key administrative steps to move the process along to lay the groundwork for legislation. Because the American people need some confidence that if we actually put a package together, we can execute.
So Janet Napolitano, who has great knowledge of this because of having been a border governor, she's already in the process of reviewing and figuring out how can we strengthen our border security in a much more significant way than we're doing.
If the American people don't feel like you can secure the borders, then it's hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows and on a pathway to citizenship who are already here, because the attitude of the average American is going to be, well, you're just going to have hundreds of thousands of more coming in each year.
On the other hand, showing that there is a more thoughtful approach than just raids of a handful of workers as opposed to, for example, taking seriously the violation of companies that sometimes are actively recruiting these workers to come in. That's again something we can start doing administratively.
So what we want to do is to show that we are competent and getting results around immigration, even on the structures that we already have in place, the laws that we already have in place, so that we're building confidence among the American people that we can actually follow through on whatever legislative approach emerges. OK?
OBAMA: I see the process moving this first year. And I'm going to be moving it as quickly as I can. I've been accused of doing too much. We are moving full steam ahead on all fronts.
Ultimately, I don't have control of the legislative calendar, and so we're going to work with legislative leaders to see what we can do.
Next was Andre Showell, the host and correspondent for Black Entertainment Television – BET News. The handsome and well spoken Showell asked about unemployment among communities of color (thanks Mr. Showell for not calling us Hispanics or Latinos) and the specific actions to be taken by the Obama administration to help us:
Andre Showell? There you go.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
As the entire nation tries to climb out of this deep recession, in communities of color, the circumstances are far worse. The black unemployment rate, as you know, is in the double digits. And in New York City, for example, the black unemployment rate for men is near 50 percent.
My question to you tonight is given this unique and desperate circumstance, what specific policies can you point to that will target these communities and what's the timetable for us to see tangible results?
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind that every step we're taking is designed to help all people. But, folks who are most vulnerable are most likely to be helped because they need the most help.
So when we passed the Recovery Act, for example, and we put in place provisions that would extend unemployment insurance or allow you to keep your health insurance even if you've lost your job, that probably disproportionately impacted those communities that had lost their jobs. And unfortunately, the African-American community and the Latino community are probably overrepresented in those ranks.
When we put in place additional dollars for community health centers to ensure that people are still getting the help that they need, or we expand health insurance to millions more children through the Children's Health Insurance Program, again, those probably disproportionately impact African-American and Latino families simply because they're the ones who are most vulnerable. They have got higher rates of uninsured in their communities.
So my general approach is that if the economy is strong, that will lift all boats as long as it is also supported by, for example, strategies around college affordability and job training, tax cuts for working families as opposed to the wealthiest that level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.
And I'm confident that that will help the African-American community live out the American dream at the same time that it's helping communities all across the country.
In other words, the immigration reform is on the hands of the U.S. Congress, right now under the leadership of the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
When it comes to help unemployed non white people, president Obama is hoping that the solution will come as an collateral effect of his administration's Recovery Act, but there are not specific plans on how to create jobs directly or at least stop the lost of more jobs.
By the way, Telemundo -a TV station owned by NBC that runs programs only in Spanish- did not show Obama's press conference. Instead, it had a Mexican soup opera at the moment when Montenegro was asking her question to president Obama! As La Bloguera points out:
"Lori Montenegro, from Telemundo gets to ask the prez a question, while Telemundo shows a telenovela instead of the press conf. /Irónico que telemundo está mostrando una telenovela mientras que su corresponsal le pregunta a Obama"Lamentable y terrible -embarrassing even.
Video: April 29, 2009 Presidential Press Conference
Courtesy of the White House
Courtesy of the White House
This is the full transcript of Obama's press conference tonight, thanks to The Huffington Post.