Washington – President Barack Obama urged members of the Latino community to "lift up your voice" to help achieve the approval of measures that benefit Hispanic families, including his jobs plan, the DREAM Act and "an immigration policy that works."
"I'm asking everybody in the Latino community - not just here, but all across the country - lift up your voice," he said Wednesday night at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 34th Annual Awards Gala in Washington.
"Make yourself heard. If you think it's time to pass a jobs bill that will put millions of Americans back to work, call on Congress to do the right thing," Obama said.
The speech in which he emphasized the common struggle of all Americans was one of the activities Obama is undertaking to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and he repeated his call for bipartisan cooperation in Congress.
"(I)n this country there is no 'us' or 'them.' There is only 'us.' One nation, under God, indivisible. And immigrants are part of that American family," the president said. "As I said when I spoke here last year, problems in the Latino community are problems for the entire American community. Our future is tied to how well the Latino community does."
He also reiterated his request that Congress approve the DREAM Act, which would benefit qualified undocumented students, and comprehensive immigration reform.
Both measures are stalled in a Congress that is highly polarized in terms of how lawmakers want to respond to the presence of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Before beginning his address to some 2,200 invited guests, Obama expressly made mention of the presence of Spain's Princess Cristina and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin.
Obama also criticized congressional Republicans once again for putting their party's electoral interests ahead of those of the country.
With 14 months to go before the 2012 presidential election, Obama said that "the American people don't have the luxury of waiting" until then for Congress to approve several pending measures.
The president said that his plan to create jobs will benefit the Hispanic community, one of the groups hardest hit by the Great Recession, with an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent and a poverty rate of 25.3 percent.
At the ceremony, the CHCI presented awards to the secretaries of Labor and the Interior, Hilda Solis and Ken Salazar, respectively; singer Vikki Carr and NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez "in recognition of their contributions to the Latino community."
This is the fourth time that Obama has attended the annual gala, including his first appearance there in 2008 as a presidential candidate, and this year's event comes at a time when the Hispanic community, the country's largest minority, is and will be a key part of the U.S. workforce over the next 50 years.
Obama participated in the event at a time when his job approval rating among Hispanics has fallen.
Although in 2008, 68 percent of Hispanics supported Obama, above all because he promised to achieve immigration reform, now just 48 percent approve of his performance in the White House, according to the latest opinion surveys.
On Monday, at a round table with EFE and other Spanish-language media, the president said that Hispanic voters will punish Republicans at the polls because conservative lawmakers continue to oppose immigration reform.