Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama told a Hispanic audience that he would continue to “push hard” for an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws even as his administration steps up border security and deportations.
Answering questions today at a White House roundtable discussion, Obama said he has consistently supported revamping laws that regulate immigration and creating a pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. Support for such changes has declined in Congress, particularly among Republicans, stalling attempts to pass legislation, he said.
“We’re a nation of laws, but we’re also a nation of immigrants,” Obama said at the forum for readers of Yahoo! en Espanol, MSN Latino, AOL Latino and Huffington Post Latino Voices.
In the 2008 presidential election, 67 percent of Hispanic voters supported Obama and 31 percent backed the Republican candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, according to the Pew Research Center in Washington. As the 2012 vote approaches, Obama’s support has been waning because of the sluggish economy and an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.
The jobless rate among Hispanics was 11.3 percent in August, according to the Labor Department.
Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics sank to 48 percent in August from 60 percent in January, according to a Gallup Organization analysis of daily tracking poll data from Aug. 1-31.
Still, Gallup said that more Hispanics approve of his job performance than disapprove, 48 percent to 37 percent. By comparison, Obama’s approval rating among the general public was at 42 percent in Gallup’s Sept. 24-26 tracking poll.
Obama also defended his administration’s tightening of border security and stepped-up deportations.
The U.S. arrested 2,900 illegal immigrants with prior criminal convictions over seven days in the largest such nationwide crackdown, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said today.
“What we’ve been doing is, with stronger border enforcement, we’ve been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back,” Obama said.
The event was streamed live at the White House website in English and dubbed into Spanish, the White House said.
--With assistance from Jeff Bliss in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Leslie Hoffecker
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