Groups Raise Ante on Immigration Reform; Obama Pressed to Tackle Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Obama's nomination of a Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court does not give him extra breathing space to put off a contentious fight on immigration, Hispanic groups and immigrant-rights advocates said Wednesday.

They operate on parallel tracks, separate tracks, said John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, as he joined nearly a dozen other leaders of a coalition that is trying to lay the groundwork so Mr. Obama can tackle immigration this year.

After Mr. Obama nominated federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, political pundits said her selection - she would be the first Hispanic justice - would buy the president enough good will among Hispanic voters that he might be able to go slower in pushing for immigration.

But Mr. Podesta said the White House doesn't see her nomination as a stalling tactic on immigration.

I don't think that's the way the president thinks. I think that he picked the person he thought would best serve on the Supreme Court, Mr. Podesta said.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Mr. Podesta and leaders from civil rights, labor, agriculture and religious groups said the political climate has changed on immigration over the past two years. They expect Mr. Obama to make good on his campaign promises to push for an overhaul of the nation's immigration system this year.

They said that must include legalizing illegal immigrants, extending due-process rights to immigrants and increasing enforcement at the borders and against employers who hire illegal immigrants.

A promise is a promise, and he made a commitment to move forward with immigration reform, and we're going to help him keep that promise, said Janet Murguia, president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza. …