Obama on Immigration: ‘Sí Se Puede’

Photograph by David Goldman/AP Photo

Volunteer Ginny Barahona of Washington hands out buttons before first lady Michelle Obama spoke at a Hispanic caucus on Sept. 5, 2012, in Charlotte.

So Univision planted the question, and the answer:

“Will we have immigration reform by the end of this year?” interviewer Maria Elena Salinas asked President Barack Obama in one of the two Spanish-language TV interviews he gave about immigration today. He also sat with Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart, brother of Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. Get the drift here?

“I believe so,” Obama said.

“You can tell our audience, sí se puede?” the interviewer asked, with the Spanish translation for Obama’s election campaign “Yes we can.”

“Sí se puede,” said the president, who won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2012 re-election and didn’t pick Univision and Telemundo at random, the day after his trip to Las Vegas, to talk about immigration reform (la reforma migratoria)”

“But I want to remind the audience, because Maria Elena we’ve had this conversation for many, many years,” Obama said in the interview. “The only way this is going to get done is if the Republicans continue to work with Democrats in Congress in both chambers in order to get a bill to my desk.  And I’m going to keep on pushing as hard as I can. I believe that the mood is right.”

The president credited the eight senators, Democrats and Republicans (Florida’s Republican Marco Rubio among them), who proposed an outline for immigration legislation this week, including a “road-map” to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. They plan twice-weekly meetings aimed at producing legislation by March.

“Most people believe that the biggest hurdle will be the path to citizenship,” the interviewer asked. “You have clearly said that it mustn’t be included from the outset. Senator Marco Rubio says that he will not support a bill that does not put border security ahead of citizenship. Is this going to end up being a battle between you and Marco Rubio?”

“So all those things are going to have to be put in place,” Obama said, averting the question about one of the Republican Party’s potential prospects for 2016. “But we have to put that in the place at the outset and make sure that people are clear that this pathway is real and not just a fantasy for the future.”

“What I’m going to do is allow the Senate to work on these details,” he said. “I don’t want to, you know, fill in all the blanks. Because otherwise I would have gone ahead and put a bill forward. And then sometimes that creates a dynamic in Congress where if Iim for it, then maybe some people have to be against it. I think these are all legitimate questions. I think that over the next several weeks, these next several months what we?ll see is many of these issues will be debated. But the basic principle would be, from my perspective, that somebody who has lived here has been overall a good neighbor, has been somebody who?s been law abiding other than the fact that they came here illegally. That have put roots down here. That they should have the capacity to earn citizenship. ”

Obama was asked in this interview about his legacy.

“Well, I spoke about my vision at the inauguration,” he said. “You know, America has everything that it needs to be not just a great country, but a country that is leading the world on so many important issues. But we just have to come together and recognize what is it that is most important to us. What makes us special. And what makes us special more than anything is the fact that we believe in hard work. We believe that if you work hard you should be able to succeed, that you should be able to pay your bills and support a family. So I want to leave behind a legacy where the economy once again works for the middle class and people who are striving to get in the middle class. That kids who want a good education can get a good education. That everybody whose willing to work hard can make it. And the other thing is that it includes everybody. Right?”

“That we’re not saying, there’s some Americans who make it, but some who don’t. There’s some who look like this, or some who, you know, had that sexual orientation or some people who had that perspective and somehow they’re not as important. You know, what has always been a hallmark of America even when we didn’t always live up to the ideal, was this ideal that, you know, we hold these truths to be self evident. That all men are created equal.”

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