WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack
Obama sought to assure Hispanic Americans Monday that he
will not abandon his efforts to overhaul U.S. immigration
policy or preserve government financial support for education.
Congress narrowly failed last year to pass the "Dream Act,"
which would have provided a path to citizenship for illegal
immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
The vote was a bitter disappointment to many Latin
Americans, the fastest growing ethnic group in the United
States and an increasingly important voting bloc.
"We have to have a pathway for citizenship for those who
are just looking for a better life and contributing to our
country, and I'll continue to fight for that," Obama said, to
applause from a crowd at a Washington, D.C., school.
Obama's "town hall" in English and Spanish -- Obama used a
translator -- sponsored by a Spanish-language television
network, was part of a White House campaign to make the case
that spending on education is essential to the future of the
United States as Obama and his Democrats try to negotiate a
budget deal with Congressional Republicans.
Republicans want to cut $61 billion in spending during the
year ending Sept. 30, and Democrats argue that the rival
party's plans would cut a variety of essential programs,
Obama addressed the issue when he was asked about how much
the country spends on the military, compared with what it
devotes to education, especially in light of the new U.S.
military action in Libya.
"Our involvement there is going to be limited both in time
and in scope," said Obama, who was to make a speech to the
nation at 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday about Libya.
"But you're absolutely right that we have a very large
defense budget. Some of that is necessitated by the size of our
country and the particular special role that we play around the
globe," he said. "But what is true is that over the last 10
years, the defense budget was going up much more quickly than
our education budget."
Obama then repeated his contention that his budget would
increase education spending, despite the continuing wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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