President Obama opened his speech to the National Council of La Raza yesterday by publicly acknowledging the Hispanic group’s close ties to the White House, a relationship that has aligned the two on nearly every policy issue during his presidency.

“Right off the bat, I should thank you because I have poached quite a few of your alumni to work in my administration,” Obama said to laughter. “They’re all doing outstanding work. … Latinos serving at every level of my administration.”

Those alumni have rewarded La Raza generously with taxpayer funding. A Judicial Watch investigation last month revealed the organization’s federal funding skyrocketed after Obama hired La Raza’s senior vice president, Cecilia Muñoz, to be his director of intergovernmental affairs in January 2009.

When Obama took the stage yesterday, the lines between official presidential business and campaigning for reelection quickly blured. At one point, he boasted to the Hispanic audience, “The Democrats and your president are with you.” This hyper-partisan approach embraced by the White House is the latest sign Obama is rightly concerned that he could be losing a growing and influential voting bloc.

Obama repeatedly took political jabs at Republicans on the debt limit and immigration reform. He used the opportunity to address a number of policy issues — from jobs and the economy to taxes and health care — before eventually turning to immigration.

Upon mentioning deportations, Obama was interrupted by a crowd that encouraged him to ignore the rule of law. Deportations for immigration-related offenses are up 78 percent under the Obama administration.

“Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own,” Obama said as the crowd began to chant, “Yes, you can!” Obama continued, “Believe me — believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how — that’s not how our system works.”

The speech offered Obama a rare opportunity in recent weeks to discuss something other than the debt-limit debate, but even it remained a theme throughout his remarks. That shouldn’t come as a surprise; La Raza has consistently echoed White House talking points on the issue.

Israel Ortega, editor of Heritage Libertad, contributed to this report. Word cloud from Wordle.