- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

UPDATED:

President Obama on Friday told a prayer breakfast for U.S. Hispanics he remains committed to an immigration reform bill, but once again would not commit himself for a legislative deadline for action.

The nation’s first black president also told the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference that one day there would be a Hispanic president, and lauded his Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who if confirmed would be the first Hispanic on the high court.

Mr. Obama said the basic promise of the country is that “America will let you go as far as your dreams and your hard work will carry you.”

As he has done frequently when speaking to predominantly Hispanic audiences, Mr. Obama repeated his broad promise to sign an immigration reform bill, offering general principles that he wants to see but not specifying when he hopes to see a bill from Congress.

He said the nation’s borders must be strengthened first, but that he does support a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants living in the country as long as they pay penalties for breaking the law and learn English. He also decried worker exploitation and said he was “committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform.”

Hispanics strongly backed Mr. Obama in last year’s election, and a number of Latino lawmakers have pressed for action on immigration reform this year.

Mr. Obama received some pressure to move more quickly at Friday’s gathering from Esperanza’s Rev. Jose Eugenio Hoyos, who said, “We want to see change in immigration reform, today and not tomorrow.”

Mr. Obama told the prayer breakfast, held in Washington, that the Bible’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself” crosses all religions and applies with special force in today’s troubled economy. He spoke for about 12 minutes about the importance of Americans working together to build the nation’s future.

During tough times, “it’s even more important to step back and give thanks and to seek guidance from each other but most importantly from God,” he said.

He added that, thanks to the Founding Fathers, Americans’ freedom to worship or to be non-believers “makes our nation stronger.”

The event opened with a prayer for the Obama family. Mr. Obama also has a series of events celebrating fatherhood ahead of Sunday’s Father’s Day.

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