May 9th, 2011
01:51 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama heads to El Paso,Texas tomorrow where he is expected to talk about an issue that was near and dear to his heart on the 2008 campaign trail: immigration.
Then candidate Obama frequently promised comprehensive immigration reform, even pledging to La Raza, the Hispanic civil rights advocacy group, that he would “make it a top priority in my first year as president.”
“It’s time for a president who won’t walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular,” he told the group in July 2008, adding, “not just because we need to secure our borders and get control of who comes into our country, and not just because we have to crack down on employers abusing undocumented immigrants – but because we have to finally bring those 12 million people out of the shadows.”
Two years later, reform remained but a pledge.
"I want to begin work this year,” Obama declared in May of 2010 at a Cinco de Mayo event at the White House.
A year after that promise – still no action.
Now once again, the president is once again taking steps to make immigration reform a priority. The difference is that this time the issue may have Obama’s full attention since health care reform is now law.
Following a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week, the White House issued a statement declaring Obama “will intensify efforts to lead a civil debate on this issue in the coming weeks and months.”
This refocusing by the White House comes at a time when polls show Obama’s support from Hispanics has slipped over the years. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Poll, Obama’s approval rating has dropped from 76% in the spring and summer of 2009, to 68% in winter and spring of 2011.
While his support in the community may have taken a hit, the numbers are higher than they were last summer, when Obama had just 53% support from Hispanics.
The White House only stands to benefit in terms of support within the community if immigration reform is passed, but the president is keenly aware that the debate will be contentious.
At a speech to students graduating from the ethnically and racially diverseMiami Dade College, Obama voiced his support to fix the broken immigration system and to pass the DREAM Act, giving citizenship to those undocumented young people who graduate college or join the military.
“Like all of this country’s movements towards justice, it will be difficult and it will take time. I know some here wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how democracy works. See, democracy is hard, but it’s right,” he said.
In his regular press briefing Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney would not predict odds on the passage immigration reform.
“What were the odds that we’d get the tax cut deal that we got? What were the odds that we’d get the kind of deficit reduction that we got in the CR debate? What are the odds that we’d get the kind of agreement that we hope to get out of the negotiations being led by the Vice President? We are congenital optimists and we think we have reason to believe that our optimism is merited,” he said.