*President Barack Obama on Thursday faced pressure to help create jobs in African-American communities and deliver an immigration overhaul even as he tried to push healthcare reform across the finish line.
Back-to-back White House meetings with representatives from the black and Hispanic communities were evidence of the long list of priorities that challenge Obama and lawmakers ahead of November congressional elections.
African-American members of Congress said they told the president that job creation is critical to their communities and that federal resources should be directed toward workforce training, specifically for infrastructure projects.
Unemployment among black Americans was 15.8 percent in February, compared to the overall jobless rate of 9.7 percent nationally.
“We talked about the desperation that we’re feeling in our communities throughout the country,” Democratic Representative Barbara Lee, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said on the White House driveway with a phalanx of other lawmakers beside her.
A White House statement issued after the meeting said participants agreed there are a number of ways to improve employment, such as summer youth employment, job training tied to apprenticeships, and ensuring fair access to contract jobs created through the federal economic stimulus.
Obama spent an hour meeting with officials from immigration advocacy groups who pressed him on an issue that did not feature highly in the president’s first year, which was dominated by fixing the economy and healthcare.
Afterward, Obama pledged his “unwavering” commitment to getting an immigration deal.
“We leave the meeting today feeling hopeful,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro of the National Council of La Raza. “The president took an hour of his time to have a conversation, not to give a speech and that is significant.”
Read MORE of this Reuters report HERE.
And for MORE coverage of this issue, see the Washington Post’s: A frustrated caucus keeps complaints quiet, HERE.