Obama: ‘Politics Did Shift’ On Immigration Reform

Barack Obama

The President explains why he decided to delay executive actions on immigration that he promised by the end of the summer

President Barack Obama defended his decision to delay promised executive action on immigration reform Saturday, saying he wasn’t playing politics when he decided to wait until after November’s midterm elections to act.

In an interview with NBC News Meet The Press moderator Chuck Todd, Obama said he did not decide to delay acting in order because vulnerable Senate Democrats have been pressing the White House to wait to act until after the midterms. “Well, that’s not the reason,” Obama told Todd. Instead, Obama blamed the early summer crisis over the surge of unaccompanied minors across the southern border for the delay.

“The truth of the matter is, that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,” Obama said. “I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this, why it’s the right thing for the American people, why it’s the right thing for the American economy.”

Earlier Saturday, a White House official said Republicans “fought hard to exploit the humanitarian situation” on the border. Polls conducted since the crisis began have found a significant drop in support for immigration reform, as voter priorities have shifted in favor of border security. Obama’s unilateral actions would have focused more on deferring removal proceedings for millions who immigrated to the United States illegally.

Obama said he was keenly aware of the drop in support for the actions he has been contemplating, saying he wants to make sure that whatever he does is “sustainable” with public backing.

“This problem with unaccompanied children that we saw a couple weeks ago, where you had, from Central America, a surge of kids who were showing up at the border, got a lot of attention,” Obama said. “And a lot of Americans started thinking, ‘We’ve got this immigration crisis on our hands.’ . . . And in terms of these unaccompanied children, we’ve actually systematically worked through the problem, so that the surge in June dropped in July, dropped further in August. It’s now below what it was last year. But that’s not the impression on people’s minds. And what I want to do is, when I take executive action, I want to make sure that it’s sustainable.”