WASHINGTON (AP) - Courting Hispanics while promoting his new jobs plan, President Barack Obama on Wednesday told a black-tie Latino audience that his $447 billion package of tax cuts and public works spending would put more money in the pockets of Latino workers and business owners and increase opportunities for Hispanics.
The president made his pitch to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's 34th Annual Awards Gala. The event is part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Addressing an important constituency both in the voting population and in Congress, the president kept up his vigorous public relations campaign for his economic measures while also beseeching the crowd to help him pass his education and immigration agenda.
"Lift up your voices," he told an audience that included Princess Cristina of Spain and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "Make yourselves heard."
Obama's economic plan, the administration's top priority, received polite applause from the crowd. People saved their loudest approval for the president's assurance that he remained determined to pass a rewrite the nation's immigration laws to offer a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Blaming Republican resistance, he said: "It's been a long and frustrating road for all of us".
Obama said changes in immigration law are key to economic growth and would fulfill what he called "the idea of America."
"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."
In advance of his remarks, the White House said the jobs proposal would lower payroll taxes for about 25 million Hispanic workers and about 250,000 Hispanic-owned businesses, statistics cited by the president to argue his case. Moreover, the White House said the legislation could help the 344,000 Hispanics no longer working as carpenters or as construction laborers because of the recession.
"You know how hard this recession has hit families, especially Latino families," Obama said.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute also presented its 2011 Chairman's Award to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.