Members of President Barack Obama’s staff will be in Orlando on Friday and Saturday to host what is being billed as the first White House Hispanic Summit outside Washington.

The two-day event will cover topics such as immigration reform, economic recovery, education and health care. Local organizers say it’s an opportunity for Hispanics of all backgrounds and political affiliations to learn about federal programs and to influence policymaking by speaking directly to people who advise the president.

Some Central Florida Republicans are charging that the summit is really a campaign event for Obama.

Angel De la Portilla, a local Republican strategist, called the summit “a ploy” and said it’s taking place in a battleground state where the Hispanic population has grown rapidly.

“This is an effort by an administration desperate to gain political footing that it has lost,” De la Portilla said.

However, Betsy Franceschini, a Democratic Hispanic-outreach coordinator for the state and one of the summit’s organizers, said that view is misguided.

“It is open to everybody,” Franceschini said. “Here’s an opportunity to receive valuable tools and information directly from the White House.”

The organizers include the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, Ana G. Mendez University System and Democracia USA, a nonprofit that registers Hispanics to vote.

The summit will be at Barry University Law School, 6441 E. Colonial Drive, from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

At least five White House senior officials are scheduled to participate.

The cost is being covered by private donations, Franceschini said. More than 200 people have registered to attend. To register for free, go to

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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