Children marched in Capitol Hill Thursday urging Speaker Boehner to act on immigration reform. (Photo: Yamila Pino, Telemundo)

Obama: health care law problems no excuse to stall on immigration reform

President Barak Obama said Thursday the political fallout from his signature health care law will not hurt his push to get immigration reform legislation to his desk.

“There is no reason for us not to do immigration reform,” Obama said in a White House news conference on health care reform

“When you’ve got a law that makes sense, you shouldn’t look for an excuse not to do it. I am going to keep on pushing to make sure it gets done,” he said.

After the problems with the healthcare’s website and criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over that and cancelled health insurance policies, the president said he would have to work on rebuilding confidence around his legislative initiatives.

But he said the problems with the Obamacare rollout are not a reason to stop the work on immigration reform.

“If people are looking for an excuse not to do the right thing on immigration reform, you can always find an excuse: We’ve run out of time. This is hard. The list goes on and on,” he said.

On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner dashed hopes of immigration reform this year when he said the House would not go to conference committee on a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Obama said that there was strong bipartisan support for immigration reform in the Senate and mentioned support from “very conservative” clergy and the business community.

Among the supporters is Grover Norquist, a Republican anti-tax activist and president of Americans for Tax Reform. He joined other business leaders in calling for immigration reform during a press conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Immigration reform is important to American economic growth. It is about creating new businesses and jobs and raising our standard of living,” Norquist said in a statement. “It is the most important legislation that the House and Senate could pass this year.”

Immigration activists and Latino groups echoed the president’s comments and said that problems with the healthcare law should not be a distraction from immigration reform.

“For the past decade we have been getting excuses from Republicans around why we can’t move on immigration reform,” Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation, said in a call pushing for action from party leaders. “There will always be a reason if you look for a reason not to move. There is nothing more important than immigration.”

The bottom line, they said, is getting Boehner, R-Ohio, to allow a vote on immigration, which they believe is realistic and can happen soon.

Also urging Boehner to act on immigration reform were about 200 children who marched on Capitol Hill to tell their immigration stories Thursday. The children, who were part of Fair Immigration Reform Movement’s ‘Keeping Families Together: Youth in Action,’ campaign, met with their representatives and sang their own version of “Happy Birthday” to Boehner, whose birthday is Sunday.

“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday for us. Keep families together. And immigration reform for us,” the children sang.

Immigration activists say they have more planned.

Sindy Benavides, Civic Engagement and Community Mobilization Director of  LULAC, said the organization is coordinating the launch of a website that will allow Latinos to directly email Congress, is working on immigration post cards that will go out to congressional members in specific states and is continuing  to support activists who are fasting “out of hope.”

Four activists continued the fast they began this week in an attempt to get the GOP to move immigration reform. They were visited by members of Congress in the tent they pitched on the National Mall not far from the Capitol. Thursday’s visitors included Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak and longtime immigration advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.

Benavides said they were also planning activities for the upcoming Thanksgiving week, including voter registration drives.

“The Latinos of today will remember that the Republican Party is standing in the way of immigration reform,” Benavides said. “They are tired of hearing excuses, we are ready for a vote.”

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