First Lady Michelle Obama may wade into the hot waters of immigration when she delivers the keynote speech at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza on Tuesday.
Immigration is one of President Barack Obama's top second-term priorities, but one that at least for the time being, seems stuck.
While Michelle Obama's pet issue during the first term was fitness, the first lady did occasionally address immigration matters in media interviews.
In a 2012 interview with national Spanish-language network Univision, she downplayed the Obama administration’s record number of deportations when the reporter raised the subject.
“There is nothing more critical than keeping families together and that is why Barack has been fighting so hard for comprehensive immigration reform,” she told the network “For the sheer fact that we cannot continue to let families be broken apart. That is at the heart of the success of any community -- thriving families being able to stay together.”
And in 2011, also in an interview with Univision, she urged Latinos to help build momentum for immigration reform – which would include a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants – because, she said, her husband could not overhaul the flawed system by himself.
“It’s got to get through Congress; he can’t do it alone,” she said.
“He has talked about [immigration] at every State of the Union address that he’s given, and he pushed hard, I think, as he said, the greatest disappointment in this last legislative year is that the DREAM Act didn’t get passed, that immigration got pushed aside,” she said. “But people have to know that the president can’t pass immigration reform without the support of Congress, and we don’t have that.”
In June, the first lady tapped Maria Cristina González Noguera, known as “MC,” and who was global vice president of Estée Lauder, to be her communications director.
The Senate in late June passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that tightens enforcement, expands visas for foreign workers and provides a path to legal status for many of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. Now it’s the House’s turn to work on a bill, and Republicans in that chamber have said they are determined not to rubber-stamp the Senate’s measure.
Some conservatives in the House, where Republicans have a majority, opposed giving undocumented immigrants a path to legal status, saying that would be rewarding lawbreakers.
President Obama has insisted that any measure that is sent to his desk for his signature must include a path to legal status.
In the president’s second term, Michelle Obama has shifted her social-issues emphasis to kids and gun violence after spending four years stressing better physical fitness for the young.
A meeting with high school students from a poor, gang-infested neighborhood in Chicago, her hometown, led Mrs. Obama to put a new spin on the stalled legislative debate over whether to ban firearms or impose new background checks on people who want to buy guns.
A mother to a teen and a tween, Mrs. Obama argued that the debate also is about the country's obligation to help kids like these grow up and become adults. Several of the school's current and former students were killed by gunfire within the past year.
One of the president’s highest-ranking Latinos in his administration is Cecilia Munoz, a former vice president of National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group.
It is unclear whether Mrs. Obama will continue to speak about gun violence or immigration after the address on Tuesday to NLCR. The speech is one of her few remaining public events before she takes her traditional month off in August. But her words and actions on the gun issue have drawn notice.
She recently said that first ladies, more than presidents, "get to work on what we're passionate about."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.