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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke August 21, 2010

Jerry Patterson says Barack Obama broke his promise to have an immigration reform bill during the first year of his presidency

Texas Republicans descended on the Capitol en masse when President Barack Obama was in Austin last week. But they weren't exactly welcoming.

At the GOP's Aug. 9 "Hands Off Texas" rally demanding that Obama, well, keep his hands of Texas, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson suggested Obama just tells voters what they want to hear. He rattled off a list of promises that the president has failed to keep.

Immigration reform is a hot-button issue running up to the mid-term elections, so we wondered about Patterson's flip question to the crowd: "Remember when he said there will be an immigration bill in the first year?"

Incidentally, when we asked Patterson to point to the promise in question, he pointed back at us. "Got that from the PolitiFact website, I think," he said. "The details are on there."

The national PolitiFact site has endeavored to track the president's promises on its "Obameter." PolitiFact has compiled more than 500 promises Obama made during his campaign, which it then rates as Kept, Broken or a Compromise.

Which brings us back to a pledge Obama made as a candidate in May 2008, during an interview with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.

"I cannot guarantee that it is going to be in the first 100 days," Obama said. "But what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I'm promoting. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible."

But well into Obama's second year, no comprehensive immigration reform measure supported by the president has been introduced in Congress.

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PolitiFact searched his speeches on, a nonpartisan website that tracks politicians' voting records, and turned up pages of speeches where Obama mentioned immigration reform. Notably, in April 2009, Obama said that he saw the immigration reform "process moving this first year" and in June 2009, he assigned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to put together a framework for comprehensive reform. In September 2009, he said he anticipated "that before the year is out we will have draft legislation, along with sponsors potentially in the House and Senate who are ready to move this forward, and when we come back next year, that we should be in a position to start acting."

Famous last words? The year came to an end with no Obama-endorsed bill in sight. On Dec. 15, 2009, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, introduced a bill, but a spokesman for the Center for Immigration Studies told PolitiFact that it was not promoted or publicly supported by the Obama administration. To gain legal status under the bill, illegal immigrants already here would have to demonstrate they have been working, pay a $500 fine, learn English and undergo a criminal background check, among other provisions, according to the New York Times.

Saying he was frustrated with Obama for not leading an overhaul of immigration laws, Gutierrez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' immigration task force, was arrested with other protesters after a sit-in in front of the White House on May 1. Gutierrez "said he believes he has a responsibility to point out that Mr. Obama has not fulfilled a campaign pledge to pass overhaul legislation, which is known to supporters as comprehensive immigration reform," according to the New York Times.

This year, Obama has continued to push immigration reform in his speeches, like his State of the Union address Jan. 27: "We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system — to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation," he said.

In March, he announced that Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had finished working on a bipartisan framework "to fix our broken immigration system." In April, Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Schumer and Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, issued a 26-page immigration reform proposal in April, which the president called "a very important step." But the senators have not yet introduced a bill.

And during a July speech at the American University, Obama sounded another call for bipartisan reform: "In recent days, the issue of immigration has become once more a source of fresh contention in our country, with the passage of a controversial law in Arizona and the heated reactions we've seen across America... Everywhere, people have expressed frustration with a system that seems fundamentally broken."

It's worth noting that many Republicans have said they won't consider comprehensive immigration reform until the federal government secures the borders — another promise Obama made as a presidential hopeful that PolitiFact has rated "In the Works," since the administration announced it was beefing up border security. On Aug. 13, Obama signed into law a $600 million bill funding 1,500 new border agents, additional unmanned aerial drones, and new Border Patrol stations on the border.

Still, we're now in year two of the Obama presidency, with no comprehensive bill backed by the administration on the horizon. PolitiFact rated the promise Broken, and we rate Patterson's statement as True.

Our Sources

E-mail interview with Jerry Patterson, land commissioner, Aug. 17, 2010, Barack Obama campaign promise No. 525: Introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the first year, updated Aug. 13, 2010, Barack Obama campaign promise No. 286: Secure the borders, updated July 23, 2010

The New York Times, New immigration bill is introduced in the House, Dec. 15, 2009

The New York Times, A potential Obama ally becomes an outspoken foe on immigration, May 28, 2010

The Houston Chronicle, Obama sending National Guard to U.S.-Mexico border at federal expense, May 25, 2010

The New York Times, Obama signs border bill to  increase surveillance, Aug. 13, 2010

Text of Obama's State of the Union Address, Jan. 27, 2010

Office of the Governor, PDF: letter from Gov. Rick Perry to President Barack Obama, Aug. 9, 2010

The White House, Immigration-related blog posts, accessed July 6, 2010

The White House, Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, July 1, 2010

CNN Transcripts, American Morning, July 5, 2010

GovTrack, Immigration bills in Congress, accessed July 6, 2010

Phone interview, Center for Immigration Studies representative, July 13, 2010

Phone interview, Mary Giovagnoli, Immigration Policy Center, July 13, 2010

The Hill Blog Briefing Room, Reid, Schumer, Menendez to unveil immigration reform plan, by Michael O'Brien and Russell Berman, April 29, 2010

The Thomas Library of Congress, H.R. 4321 index page, accessed July 13, 2010

Harry Reid, Immigration index page, accessed July 15, 2010

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