(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama, in his first ever press conference since his re-election, said Wednesday that he predicted that a “significant increase in Latino turnout” at the polls would give Republicans reason to reflect on their position on immigration reform. The president said he expects to see progress in Congress shortly after his inauguration on the issue.
“Before the election I’d given a couple interviews where I predicted the Latino vote will be strong and that that would cause some reflection on the part of Republicans about their position on immigration reform. I think we’re starting to see that already. I think that’s a positive sign,” Obama said.
Immigration reform “has not historically been a partisan issue,” he said. “We’ve had President Bush and John McCain and others who have supported comprehensive immigration reform in the past, so we need to seize the moment.
“And my expectation is, is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration, and in fact, some conversations I think are already beginning to take place between senators and congressmen and my staff about what would this look like,” the president said.
Maryland voters approved a referendum on Election Day that would allow illegal aliens in the state to attend state universities and pay in-state tuition.
“I think what was incredibly encouraging was to see a significant increase in Latino turnout. This is the fastest growing group in the country and historically where you’ve seen the Latino vote at lower rates than the broader population, and that’s beginning to change,” Obama said.
“You’re starting to see a sense of empowerment and civic participation that I think is going to be powerful and good for the country. And it is why I’m very confident that we can get immigration reform done,” he said.
The president’s vision of comprehensive immigration reform would “include a continuation of the strong border security measures that we’ve taken, because we have to secure our borders,” as well as “serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and taking advantage of them.”
“And I do think that there should be a pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country, are not engaged in criminal activity, are here simply to work. It’s important for them to pay back taxes. It’s important for them to learn English. It’s important for them to potentially pay a fine. But to give them the avenue whereby they can resolve their legal status here in this country, I think is very important,” he said.
The president signed an executive order in June preventing the deportation of illegal aliens under age 30 who were brought to the United States before the age of 16.
The DREAM Act, which stands for Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors, was introduced in 2001 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Richard Durbin (D-Mich.). The House approved a version of it in 2010, but it has not received final passage.