Obama to reassure Hispanics

President Obama will seek to reassure Latino elected officials and activists that he’s committed to taking executive actions on immigration during a speech Thursday night to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

The remarks will be the president's first public address on immigration since his decision last month to put off any action until after the midterm elections.


“The president will reiterate his continuous commitment to immigration reform and to fix as much of our immigration system as he can on his own,” a White House official said.

Obama’s decision disappointed Hispanic lawmakers and other activists pushing the White House to change deportation policies. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) accused Obama of “walking away from our values and our principles” during an interview last month with ABC News.

Obama made the decision with an eye on November, hoping it would boost his party’s chances of keeping its Senate majority. But it appears to have contributed to his falling approval ratings, particularly with base Democratic voters.

It’s also stoked new fears among pro-immigration reform activists that the president might never take the type of sweeping steps they've been fighting for. 

The administration has scrambled to calm those fears over the past few weeks, with top administration officials repeatedly insisting the president will act before the end of the year.

Vice President Biden hosted a Hispanic Heritage Month reception at his home late last month, and said at the event that Obama was “absolutely committed to moving forward.” Biden added that the president would move ahead “with or without” Congress and that “if they don't get something done by the end of this year, the president's going to do it.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told Telemundo last weekend that Obama would “make good” on his promise to implement executive actions to address problems with the immigration system by the end of the year.

“This is a promise the president will keep,” Earnest said.

“The president has tasked his team with looking at the law and determining what kind of executive authority he can use to try to address the problems of our broken immigration system,” he said. “They've come up with some good solutions. They will be finalized before the end of the year and the president will announce them before the end of the year.”

The full-court press appears an acknowledgment that the White House has seen a sharp drop in Latino support following his decision to punt on executive action.

White House officials have said Obama was concerned that moving before the midterm elections would make reform a partisan issue and galvanize support against it, although Senate Democrats locked in tough reelection battles also begged Obama to hold off.

But while the delay might be assisting red-state Democrats, it appears to be hurting the president with a core Democratic constituency. 

A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released in October showed just 47 percent of Hispanic voters approve of the president's performance, down 15 percentage points from April 2013. Fewer than 3 in 10 Latino voters described themselves as “very positive” about Obama. 

In a Pew Research poll released in September, a majority of Hispanic Democrats — 52 percent — said their party wasn't doing a good job on immigration issues. 

Obama will also use his speech on Thursday to highlight administration initiatives to help Latinos outside of immigration reform, including job creation programs and ObamaCare.

“Since taking office, every issue the Obama administration has addressed has been of vital importance to the Hispanic community, from promoting job creation and a fair wage to making sure that every American — including Latinos, who have the highest rates of uninsurance — has access to quality and affordable healthcare, to improving access to a good education, fighting for common-sense immigration reform and standing up for the civil rights of all Americans,” Earnest said.