It was bound to happen.
Given the political grudge match in Washington; given the lackluster state of the economy; given all the talk of the Latino vote potential; and given the beginning of Hispanic Heritage month; it was just a matter of picking the right venue for President Obama to tout his Jobs Act to a rapt Latino audience.
He got his chance at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 34th Annual Awards Gala. It’s an annual event where almost all of the Latino Washington sphere gathers in a generally good mood, dressed in their tuxedos and ball gowns.
Obama’s been on the road for about a week, taking his push for his $447 billion jobs plan directly to the towns and neighborhoods where the bad economy has hit the hardest. And while this wasn’t exactly a hardscrabble crowd, it was a place for the President to take measure of his ideas on how to rebuild jobs across the country. His plan has been to take this fight to the streets, so to say. Latinos have been among the hardest hit be the recession – 12% of all Latinos are unemployed. As the Assopciated Press reported it:
“Lift up your voices,” he told an audience that included Princess Cristina of Spain and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “Make yourselves heard.”
His words about the economy were received, according to the same report, “with polite applause.” The crows was, after all, wearing formals and clinking champagne glasses. But formalities aside, exactly how will the Obama jobs plan affect Latinos?
This is what the White House said, just before the gala. The jobs proposal will:
- reduce payroll taxes for 25 million Latino workers
- as well as 250,000 Lation-owned businesses
- Help 344,000 unemployed Latino carpenters and construction workers find jobs
The line that got the most applause of the night came when the President addressed immigration. He promised the crowd that he was determined to enact a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers who now live in the United States:
“No matter what you may hear, in this country there is no `us’ or `them.’ There is only `us.’ One nation, under God, indivisible,” he said. “And immigrants are part of that American family and a source of our strength.”
The crowd loved it.
And that’s an interesting thing to point out. If you’d have to pick which of the two, the jobs plan or the immigration plan, was the steepest uphill battle, you might want to give the coin a toss. The president knows it, and those at the gala know it as well. His opposition is going to give him a hard time on both fronts. The economy and the unemployed, though, are a more pressing issue at the moment. And still, it was immigration that got the hoots and hollers – bow ties and glitter and all.
It’s a far cry from where the recession is throwing it’s hardest punches. But the Princess of Spain was in the ballroom, so it’s understandable that the President be there as well.
I’m wondering if the President’s jobs-plan tour includes Plaza Guadalupe, in San Antonio’s west side, or other places like it across the country. It was nice of him to go to the big Latino Gala, but the folks in that room already have jobs.
[Photo courtesy United States Government Work]