President Obama on Immigration

President Obama recently spoke with Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart about immigration and a number of other issues. Specifically, Diaz-Balart passed on reader’s questions about immigration reform and deportations. Many readers were concerned about how President Obama would be able to deliver on immigration reform if he continues to face a divided Congress – a problem that prevented him from passing the DREAM Act and related immigration laws.

According to President Obama, Republicans agree with him about the need for immigration reform. He noted that while he and George Bush and he and John McCain may disagree about many issues, all agree that immigration reform is needed. He noted that these legislators do see the contribution Latinos and immigrants make to the community and they do wish to see changes. However, President Obama noted that after he was elected Republicans in the Senate and the House resisted his ideas for reform. In the future, he notes that the response of Republicans to the election and to Latino voters will determine what reforms are possible.

President Obama also noted that the deferred action policy and the push for the DREAM Act has gotten support from Latino voters and the immigrant community, and that support will be helpful in ensuring that future steps forward can take place. He also noted that his administration has done what it can, changing the focus of immigration enforcement only to criminal undocumented immigrants and passing the new deferred action policy. Responding to criticism about the record number of deportations under his administration President Obama noted that the high numbers are because enforcement is focusing on those who are taking part in criminal activity, not law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

President Obama believes that after the election, Republicans will, for their political self-interest, try to make the correct decisions about immigration reform. While President Obama notes that he knows that the US is a nation of immigrants and that giving law-abiding and contributing undocumented immigrants a chance to legal status is good for the country, he hopes that Republicans can acknowledge this fact as well.

Immigrant advocate groups are interested in the upcoming election and what it may mean for immigration reform. Republicans have traditionally supported controversial measures, such as the contentious Arizona immigration law, and have opposed amnesty for undocumented immigrants and their children. Some believe that if Mitt Romney is elected, some immigration changes – such as the deferred deportation policy – will be overturned. At the same time, President Obama has not been able to make some of the promised immigration changes, including passing the DREAM Act. Under his administrations, 400 000 undocumented immigrants have been reported, more than under any other administration.