President Obama on Tuesday rejected the suggestion that he has changed his position on immigration and deportations — and dismissed a lawsuit filed by 20 states challenging his recent changes to immigration policy.
In the interview, Fusion’s Jorge Ramos challenged Obama on past statements in which the president said he didn’t have the legal authority to suspend deportations because he wasn’t a “king” or an “emperor.” Ramos said Obama did “just that” last month, when he took unilateral action that will shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Obama said he hadn’t changed his mind on the matter, but a review by the Department of Homeland Security produced more lawful steps his administration could take.
“At the time, Jorge — and I can run back the tape on your questions and some of the questions at that town hall — the notion was that we could just stop deportations. Period. And we can’t do that,” Obama said.
“What I’ve said very clearly and consistently is that we have to enforce our immigration laws, but that we have prosecutorial discretion given the limited resources. And we can’t deport 11 million people.”
Obama said he made it a priority to focus resources on border security and deporting criminals early in his presidency. That focus was sharpened in 2012, he said, when his administration announced the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has helped hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants avoid deportation. Obama painted his latest move to shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation in a similar light.