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Obama Briefs Latino Media on Health, Immigration

New America Media, News Report , Cristina Fernandez-Pereda Posted: Aug 11, 2009

Obama and Latino Media

Ten Latino news media outlets were invited last week to a roundtable discussion with Pres. Barack Obama at the White House. During the meeting, the president provided an update on health care and immigration reforms, the economic recovery efforts, education, H1N1 flu and his trip to Mexico.

Obama described the economic situation as "beginning to stabilize, now that we know that the GDP was even worse than we thought" back in January.

The president covered various issues affecting the country with specific details about the impact they've had in the Latino community. But he put particular stress on health care reform.

"Latinos are by far the largest group of uninsured, Obama said. Passing reform that addresses the vulnerability of this community is a critical pillar for a new economy." Given delays the legislation has faced and Congress summer recess, Obama explained to New America Media that it will take at least two months before any legislation is approved. After that, uninsured Americans might not enjoy the results of the reform for another two years.

"We have to make sure we have all the mechanisms and financial regulations so no one gets cheated," Obama said. "The health care system adds up to one sixth of our economy. It's a big system involving a lot of money and key parts."

"I want to see it done, like I wanted before I came into office, but we need the communities to mobilize and Congress to take risks and invest in it, too, he said.

However, one of the limits to the reform is coverage for undocumented children, which could be especially critical in the case of a potential H1N1 flu outbreak. The president explained that it is not possible to provide coverage for undocumented immigrants and that the bills pending in Congress do not cover undocumented children.

Along with health care reform, Latinos are expecting new immigration legislation to be introduced in Congress before the end of the year. He told the Latino reporters that it will require both a bipartisan effort from lawmakers and a special push from the communities. [The following week, Obama announced after a two-day summit in Guadalajara with Mexicos president and Canadas prime minister that immigration reform will have to wait till 2010.]

Regarding the 287(g) program that allows law enforcement officials to investigate and arrest undocumented immigrants on civil and criminal grounds, Obama criticized those raids "that create a lot of publicity but don't solve the problem" of criminal activity and admitted that there's still work to do on that issue.

Obama said that all localities that want to extend the federal agreement with Department of Homeland Security need to reapply for it, and the government has set new rules and conditions they must meet.

"We want to focus only on justified raids and controls. We want a reform so the system works better and people are not forced into undocumented status," he said. "Some raids are less worried about dealing with criminals and more about workers, from now on it will have to be the other way."

Obama told the media that the government needed their help in getting out information on other critical issues, citing the H1N1 flu epidemic. Obama lamented that it was not getting enough publicity and that the White House has been monitoring its evolution in the Southern hemisphere. "The possibility that it becomes a very severe flu that kills a lot of people still exists," he said.

The president invited all reporters at the meeting to share with their audiences the information posted on the site flu.gov, which includes the latest developments about the epidemic, the work on flu vaccines and information for schools and families to fight the spread of the virus.

Related Articles:

Ethnic Media Grade Obama on Immigration Reform

White House Welcomes Ethnic Press: Is it Enough?

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