Congressional Hispanic Caucus to play hardball on immigration reform

Hardball tactics by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus may make immigration reform a step closer, and tens of thousands of Irish undocumented are among those who are anxiously awaiting news on a new bill.

The Hispanic lobby is apparently threatening to hold up passage of the health care bill in the House unless President Obama ups the ante on immigration reform and promises to push hard for a bill early this year. Obama had promised a bill last year, but that never materialized.

The new tactic could make health care reform dependent on winning over the Hispanic immigration reform lobby led by Congressman Luis Gutierrez in Congress, according to

Gutierrez,a Chicago era congressman, is a close friend of President Obama, but he is determined to push through immigration reform this year and he has already introduced a bill in the House.

The Hispanic vote is increasingly important in national elections and has trended Democratic. If Obama does not make a major effort to pass reform, it could be in doubt.

"You had 10 million Hispanic voters turn out in 2008, a significant number of first-time voters, many of them from immigrant families. For them, immigration reform is a defining issue," Frank Sharry, the founder of the pro-reform group America's Voice, told Politico.

"If Obama doesn't keep his promise to move on immigration reform early in his presidency, we fear that a lot of these voters, particularly the first-time voters, won't turn out in the midterms," he said, referring to races in Colorado, Nevada and Florida.