First lady: Immigration still a priority for Obama, despite congressional kickback

First lady Michelle Obama on Sunday suggested congressional partisanship is to blame for the absence of comprehensive immigration reform since her husband took office.

When asked during an interview on Univision's "Al Punto" why President Barack Obama had not lived up to his promise to push the issue within his first year of winning office, Michelle stressed "immigration is still on the top" of his political agenda.

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However, the first lady quickly suggested that the primary roadblock to the reforms that Obama first pitched on the campaign trail are none other than congressional lawmakers, who are still reeling from the just-completed healthcare debate.

"[W]hat we all have to understand in the United States, in Mexico and around the world is that the president needs the support of two parties of Congress to get major reform done," the first lady said.

"We saw the challenges that take place with just getting healthcare reform so there are real challenges ahead," she continued, "but I know that my husband is committed and understands that a comprehensive and smart immigration reform policy is going to benefit the United States and Mexico and other countries around the world."

Immigration reform has returned to the political foreground in the past few weeks, in part because of a recent move by the Arizona legislature to require people to carry proof of legal status or risk detention.

That effort, which Gov. Jan Brewer (R) could ultimately veto, has touched off a debate in the Latino community that mostly targets the Obama administration. Community leaders -- including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' immigration task force -- are now questioning why the president has not introduced the comprehensive immigration reform he promised on the 2008 campaign trail.

"The President knows what we must do, but he alone must summon the political will in Washington to do it," the congressman wrote in an op-ed published on The Huffington Post this weekend. "The short-run calculations of politics are deeply rooted and hard to overcome, but as we saw in the health care debate, he can do it if he wants to."


"Obama the President needs to stand up for what Obama the candidate and what Obama the Senator and what Obama the Chicago community organizer stood for and lead the Congress towards reform," Gutierrez continued. "But I'm already afraid that for the people of Arizona, he has waited too long."

Democratic lawmakers have, however, tried recently to generate interest in immigration legislation, but their efforts seem to be to no avail.

An attempt by Senate Democratic Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to drum up support for immigration reform met resistance even from those within his own party, who thought such a bill would help the leader's political future at the expense of Democratic incumbents running for re-election in conservative states.

The first lady seemed to hint at those difficulties during her interview on Spanish-language television this weekend. However, she stressed immigration would continue to be one of her husband's top priorities.

"I think what people can understand about the President is that he has done his best to follow through on every single commitment that he has made, and immigration reform is still on the top of his list -- it's a necessity," she noted.