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Obama Apologizes for Immigration Remarks
by Willy T. Crowe
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama at a press conference today apologized to legislators in Arizona for criticizing earlier in the week the state's new immigration law.
"I am having Michelle prepare a special avian dinner for me tonight," he said. "Because it's high time I ate the flesh of America's most common scavenger bird.
"I am sorry that my remarks about Arizona's new bill regarding illegal immigration were poorly conceived and misguided. If I had actually read the bill before commenting on it, I would not have implied that officers who would enforce the bill were tantamount to Nazis.
"I also would not have postulated that a police officer could say, 'Show me your papers' to an American family going out for ice cream simply because they were Hispanic. I had not realized how carefully crafted this law was or the steps that are being taken to prevent racial profiling."
A hand among the newspersons shot up. It was that of Fox News immigration reporter Ximena Rush, who has a reputation for being first to get a story on the air.
"Mr. Obama," she said in staccato fashion, "According to our records, this is the first time you have issued an apology for making poorly conceived or misguided statements. Is that because this is the first time that you have made a misstep, or is a recent poll that 70 percent of Arizonans and 60 percent of Americans favor the Arizona bill a factor?"
"Neither," Mr. Obama replied. "I have made many mistakes in office. When you golf as much as I do, you can't help but make mistakes. As you know, I have actually put in more rounds in my 16 months than President Bush did in his entire eight-year term. And just like Tiger Woods I have made lots of mistakes, such as missing putts, hitting the ball out of bounds and in the water, and so forth."
Contributor Tom N. Cheek of Michael Savage's syndicated radio show, Savage Nation, asked a followup question.
"Are you saying this is your first policy mistake?" he asked.
"No," Mr. Obama replied. "Last year I made a mistake when I thought I had made an error and later found out I was wrong."
He then called on CBS News anchor Katie Couric.
"We know you viewed the Arizona immigration law as evidence of the blatant racism that we in the news media find everywhere we look in conservative political movements," she said. "We all know that Republicans hate Mexicans and other minorities. Do you still view this bill as racist?"
"No," he said. "When I found out that most Hispanics in Arizona favor the bill, I realized that people are just frustrated that the Bush Administration never did anything to stem the flow of illegal aliens, who are stealing jobs from minorities who are American citizens."
Horace A. Round of the Washington Post asked, "Won't this bill be just as ineffective as the federal laws that it purports to enforce?"
Mr. Obama said he was surprised to learn that many illegal aliens have already returned to Mexico in the six days since the bill was signed on April 23, even though it doesn't go into effect until this summer. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that employers who usually hire day laborers with under-the-table cash are now being forced to hire Hispanic, black and white Americans and either pay or withhold the proper taxes.
"It appears to me now that if other states were to adopt the Arizona law," he said, "then it would stimulate the economy in a major way. It would move the underground economy above board, resulting in more money in our tax coffers, which means we could stop firing school teachers and stop putting off needed repairs to our infrastructure.
"It amazes me, but the Arizona law appears to be effective in protecting our borders. We welcome states who want to help us in enforcing our immigration laws.
"Still, I would rather see a federal effort made to enforce the laws already on the books. Toward this end, my staff will be preparing legislation that requires the enforcement of the original immigration laws and adds penalties that actually work, such as fining illegal immigrants as well as employers who hire them rather than just giving undocumented aliens a free ticket home."
Libby Rahl of MSNBC wanted to know whether Mr. Obama had heard that some top honors students were leaving the University of Arizona to protest the state's new immigration law.
Yes, I have," Mr. Obama said. "However, I would encourage those students to read the bill first. Of course, they might be undocumented aliens, so they probably should leave before the law goes into effect."
The President then pointed and nodded at S. Mel Arrat, a freelance reporter working for the Washington Times.
"We have never seen such a policy reversal in Washington D.C.," said Arrat, the son of an Egyptian immigrant. "Are you serious, or is this some kind of joke."
Mr. Obama said he had relied on others to assess the bill before he found himself with a few minutes to spare and had looked up the bill on the Internet.
"It didn't take long to realize that this bill had been misrepresented to me," he said. "I had thought it was foisted upon us by Tea Partiers or Nine Twelvers who want a small government. But then I realized that it's really something that I could support because it will take many more peace officers than we currently have to enforce it.
"In reading the bill I saw how it expands the scope and control of government while at the same time clearly prohibiting racial profiling.
"Now, we all know that most illegal immigrants come from Mexico, Central America and South America, and many of them cannot speak English very well.
"While I don't trust the government when it comes to sticking to the rules regarding race, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has assured me that all peace officers will undergo comprehensive training on how to identify undocumented immigrants without violating the civil rights of our citizens. She promised to do all in her power to prevent racial profiling."
Mr. Obama then left the dais and started to put on a golf glove as he walked down an adjoining hallway. Deputy public information officer, native Arizonan Stringham A. Long moved to the dais. Long said about 30 percent of Arizona peace offiers are Hispanic. He said interns in the White House press secretary's office had called 200 of those officers and learned that 164 of them supported the bill.
"Many of the officers who look like undocumented immigrants themselves commented that something had to be done," Long said. "They think that most of the murders, kidnappings, wife beatings, assaults and car hijackings that are taking place in Arizona are committed by criminals who they believe are undocumented immigrants."
An unidentified reporter with a thick Spanish accent asked Long whether his comments could be construed as racist. That journalist was whisked away by agents who asked about his papers as he left the press room. Long went on to answer the question.
"Just because many illegal immigrants commit violent crimes doesn't mean a person who observes the truth is racist," he said. "I must stress, however, that most of the half-million or so undocumented Hispanics in Arizona are not criminals, but they are here to make money for themselves and their families.
"We empathize with them, but President Obama believes that citizens deserve to have employment opportunities that currently are being taken by undocumented workers. Yes, a percentage of the illegal immigrants are among the most violent and cruel habitual violators in Arizona as well as in other states along our southern border. Now peace officers will have the tools, authority and procedures in place to check the legal status of criminals they encounter, so we'll have a better idea in the future of just how many violent crimes are committed by illegals."
Belinda Z. Abbott, a cane-toting reporter for the braille newspaper, News Touch, asked whether the Obama Administration would pursue federal immigration law reform as promised.
"Yes," Long said. "But the emphasis will be on enforcement of current laws while at the same time making it much easier for visitors to get work permits in the country. What we're proposing is that all law-abiding foreign workers who apply will get within 24 hours a six-month temporary employment permit that allows them to work for as much as one and a half times minimum wage.
"That will give 16,000 new federal agents enough time to determine if applicants have been convicted of crimes here or in their native countries. It also will prevent foreign workers from taking away jobs from students and native minority workers.
"Senators and Congressmen from both sides of the aisle have told us they are not opposed to allowing citizens of other countries to work here. They just don't want illegal immigrants here. We believe we can come together in a bipartisan way to reform immigrant work laws. There will probably be a limit placed on the amount that an employer can pay a temporary alien worker. Exceptions will be made for employees who have unique skills that are not available among our citizens. Outstanding athletes and entertainers, for example, will be allowed into the country."
Quote of the Day
"I'm not an expert on the Constitution but I know the constitution exists ... to protect human beings, to protect the rights of people living in a nation, with or without documents" — Latina pop star Shakira