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The President Speaks at Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala

The President Speaks at Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala


The President:Thank you
to Senator Menendez, Congressman Hinojosa, and the
entire CHC for inviting me. Everybody, you can have
a seat, take a load off. (laughter) I want to
congratulate tonight’s outstanding honorees —
Jose Diaz-Balart — (applause) Eliseo Medina — (applause) — and Juliet Garcia. (applause) I want to thank all
the other members of Congress who are here tonight, including
the outstanding Nancy Pelosi. (applause) Although I have to
say Nancy Pelosi was really talking mostly about the
San Francisco Giants — in a Nationals town. So that just shows her courage. (laughter) I want to give a
special thanks to two young men who rode over with me from
the White House tonight. Luis and Victor are CHCI
interns and fellows. (applause) They
are also DREAMers, living and working in the
country they call home, and making it a better
place for all of us. Their stories are
inspiring. And along with the
other CHCI fellows, they give me great
hope for the future. They make me optimistic about
what America is all about. Six years ago, I came here as a
candidate for this office and I said if we worked
together, we could do more than just win an election — we could rebuild America so that everybody, no matter what you look like, no matter what your
last name is, no matter what God you worship,
no matter who you love — everybody is free to
pursue their dreams. (applause) And that’s exactly
what we set out to do. And today, there is progress
that we should be proud of. I gave a long speech this
afternoon about it because sometimes we don’t focus on
what has happened over these last six years. Over the past four
and a half years, our businesses have created 10
million new jobs — the longest uninterrupted stretch of job
creation in our history. (applause) In the spring, our
economy grew faster than any time since 2006, and there are
more job openings today than at any time since 2001. (applause) And we are going
to keep working as hard as we can to help create
good, middle-class jobs even faster. Six years ago, I told
you we would confront the crisis of overcrowded classrooms
and underfunded schools, and help more families
afford higher education. And since 2000, we have cut
the Latino dropout rate by more than half. (applause) Because
dropouts are down, today our high school graduation
rate is the highest on record. And since 2008, the rate
of college enrollment among young Latinos has
risen by 45 percent. (applause) Six years ago, I said
we’d take on a broken health care system that left one out
of three Hispanics uninsured. Today, millions more
Americans have quality, affordable health insurance
that they can count on. (applause) Over the
last year alone, about 10 million Americans
gained health insurance. And that includes
millions of Latinos. (applause) Six years ago, I
told you we’d restore the idea at the heart of America that
we’re in this together, that I am my brother’s keeper,
and my sister’s keeper. Last year, poverty among
Latinos fell, and incomes rose. And this week, I launched the
My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, asking every
community in our country to publicly commit to strategies
that will help put our young people on the path to success,
from cradle to career. (applause) So the point I want
to make is the progress we’ve made has been hard, sometimes
it’s been slower than we want, but that progress has been
steady and it has been real. We have done big
things together, and we’re going to do more. And tonight, I want to
make something clear: Fixing our broken immigration
system is one more, big thing that we have to
do and that we will do. (applause) Now, I know there’s
deep frustration in many communities around
the country right now. And I understand that
frustration because I share it. I know the pain of families torn
apart because we live with a system that’s broken. But if anybody wants to know
where my heart is or whether I want to have this fight,
let me put those questions to rest right now. I am not going to give up this
fight until it gets done. (applause) As Bob mentioned,
I’ve taken so far actions —
I’m about to get to that. About to get to it. (applause) (audience interruption) The actions that
we’ve taken so far — (audience interruption) — you’re going to
want to hear it, you’ll want to hear what I
say, rather than just — the actions that we’ve taken
so far are why more than 600,000 young people can
live and work without fear of deportation. (applause) That’s because of
the actions I took and the administration took. (applause) Because of the
coalition that we built together, business and labor,
faith and law enforcement, Democrats and Republicans —
created a bipartisan bill and got it through the
Senate last year. When states like Alabama
and Arizona passed some of the harshest immigration
laws in history, my Attorney General took
them on in court and we won. (applause) So you know
what we’ve done together. You know that we’ve done it
despite what is possibly the most uncooperative House
of Representatives in history. (applause) If House Republicans
brought the Senate bill up for a vote today, it would pass
today; I would sign it today. And they know it. (applause) But instead,
they’ve been sitting on it for more than a year. They voted to strip
DREAMers of new protections and make them eligible for
deportation — not once, but twice they voted that way. And this summer, when a wave of
unaccompanied minors crossed part of our southwest border,
my administration matched compassion for kids with a
firm message to families. Today, fewer parents are
sending their children on that perilous journey than they
were at this time last year, and we’re working to give more
kids the chance to apply for asylum in their home
countries and avoid that journey altogether. (applause) But while we
worked to deal with an urgent humanitarian problem, while
we actually did something about the problem, Republicans
exploited the situation for political gain. And in June, as all
this was going on, Speaker Boehner told me he
would continue to block a vote on immigration
reform for at least the remainder of this year. Audience: Booo — The President: Now,
don’t boo, vote. (applause) I’ve said before that if
Congress failed to live up to its responsibilities
to solve this problem, I would act to fix as much
of our immigration system as I can on my own, and
I meant what I said. So this is not a
question of if, but when. Because the moment I act — and
it will be taking place between the November elections and the
end of the year — opponents of reform will roll out the
same old scare tactics. They’ll use whatever excuse they
have to try to block any attempt at immigration reform at all. And we have to be realistic:
For any action to last, for it to be effective and
extend beyond my administration — because I’m only here two
more years — we’re going to have to build more support
of the American people so that it is
sustainable and lasting. And so I am going to be
spending the next month, month and a half, six weeks,
eight weeks — I’m going to be spending that time not
just talking about what we’ve done for the economy,
but explaining why immigration reform is good
for our economy, and why it’s good for everybody. (applause) And when opponents
are out there saying who knows what, I’m going to
need you to have my back. I’m going to need
you to have my back. I’m going to need you to keep
putting pressure on Congress, because the fact of the matter
is no matter how bold I am, nothing I can do will be as
comprehensive or lasting as the Senate bill. Anything I can do can be
reversed by the next President. To move beyond what I
can do in a limited way, we are going to
need legislation. And if we want that legislation
to happen sooner rather than later, then there’s one more
thing I need you to do — I’ve got to have you talk to
your constituents and your communities, and you’ve got
to get them out to vote. (applause) You already know how
powerful the Latino vote can be. (applause) In 2012, Latinos
voted in record numbers. The next day, even Sean
Hannity changed his mind and decided immigration
reform was a good idea. (laughter) But despite that
record-breaking turnout, only 48 percent of Hispanic
voters turned out. Fewer than half. Fewer than half. So the clearest path to change
is to change that number. Si, se puede … si votamos. Yes we can … if we vote. (applause) You know,
earlier this year, I had the chance to host a
screening of the film Cesar Chavez at the White House,
and I was reminded that Cesar organized for nearly 20 years
before his first major victory. He never saw that
time as a failure. Looking back, he
said, “I remember… the families who joined our
movement and paid dues long before there was any hope
of winning contracts… I remember thinking then that
with spirit like that… no force on Earth
could stop us.” That’s the promise
of America then, and that’s the promise of
America now — people who love this country can change it. America isn’t Congress. America isn’t Washington. America is the striving
immigrant who starts a business, or the mom who works two
low-wage jobs to give her kid a better life. America is the union leader
and the CEO who put aside their differences to make
the economy stronger. America is the student who
defies the odds to become the first in a family
to go to college — (applause) — the citizen who defies
the cynics and goes out there and votes — (applause) — the young person
who comes out of the shadows to demand the right to dream. That’s what America is about. (applause) And six years
ago, I asked you to believe. And tonight, I ask you to
keep believing — not just in my ability to bring about
change, but in your ability to bring about change. Because in the end, “dreamer” is
more than just a title — it’s a pretty good description of
what it means to be an American. (applause) Each of us is
called on to stand proudly for the values we believe in
and the future we seek. All of us have the chance to
reach out and pull this country that we call home a little
closer to its founding ideals. That’s the spirit that’s
alive in this room. That’s the spirit I
saw in Luis and Victor, and all the young
people here tonight. That spirit is alive
in America today. And with that spirit, no
force on Earth can stop us. Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (applause)

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