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Hispanic group waits for Obama's return

Then-Sen. Barrack Obama (D-IL) speaking at the 25th annual conference of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in Washington on June 28, 2008. (UPI Photo/Alexis C. Glenn)
Then-Sen. Barrack Obama (D-IL) speaking at the 25th annual conference of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in Washington on June 28, 2008. (UPI Photo/Alexis C. Glenn) | License Photo

SAN ANTONIO, June 20 (UPI) -- A Hispanic group is criticizing U.S. President Obama for not attending its annual meeting for three years running, despite his pledge as a candidate to do so.

Members of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials also question Obama's commitment to immigration reform, noting that deportations have increased during his presidency even as he courts the Hispanic vote, Politico reported Sunday.

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The organization, which includes more than 6,000 Latino leaders representing huge voter blocs in key electoral states, opens its annual conference Thursday in San Antonio.

Obama recently invited several Latino groups to the White House, stressed his support for overhauling immigration policy, delivered a speech on immigration reform in El Paso, Texas, and went to Puerto Rico last week.

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White House spokesman Luis Miranda said the administration has shown "unprecedented" work and outreach on issues important to Hispanics.

"The scope of the president's efforts on behalf of Latinos and all Americans is not defined by his participation at one event, but rather by the work carried out every day to put our economy back on track and spur job creation, improve access to healthcare, strengthen education and reform our immigration system so that it meets America's 21st century needs," Miranda said.

Obama will attend the National Council of La Raza's annual conference in July, the organization said.

When Obama addressed NALEO in 2008, the group's executive director, Arturo Vargas, asked whether he would return in 2009, if elected, and Obama said he looked forward to speaking to the organization as president. The group is waiting.

Vargas said the invitation for this week's conference was sent to the White House a year ago.

"It's more than a disappointment," Vargas told Politico. "I don't get it. I don't think he's given our membership the attention they deserve."

Vargas said the White House told him Obama's schedule didn't allow for his attendance. When the White House asked NALEO to accept a video address by the president instead, NALEO declined.

The administration is sending Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

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