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Local leaders respond to president's immigration speech, visit

By Brian Cuaron
May 10, 2011 at 12:10 a.m.

President Barack Obama signs a shirt after he spoke about immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Reaction to President Barack Obama's call for immigration reform was both skeptical and positive among Victoria area leaders.

Joseph Garza, a local attorney who deals with immigration cases, said Obama's speech on Tuesday helps the fight for immigration reform. He said that when the president first came into office, he had his hands full with the economy and two wars, limiting the time he could dedicate to the issue.

Kelli Gill, chairwoman for the Victoria County Democratic Party, said that Obama's visit to the border near El Paso has helped put a light on an issue that needs to be addressed.

But not everyone sees it that way, given the president's comments on how Republicans may want alligators guarding the border.

"What he's doing there at the border is campaigning and taunting, and that's not the kind of leadership that gets things done," said Michael Cloud, chairman for the Victoria County Republican Party. "That's the kind of leadership that rallies your base."

Obama may try to gain politically from his speech, said Benny Martinez, district director with the civil rights organization LULAC. Yet, he added that he thought the president was sincere about passing immigration reform.

And Martinez is hopeful that a reform bill will be passed soon.

"Let me tell you one thing, I don't think that people will ever stop coming over here from other countries," he said.

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