President Obama issued his strongest call for overhauling a “broken immigration system” Tuesday along the U.S.-Mexico border, urging a largely disinterested Congress to pass legislation he argues will have deep economic benefits.
The speech in El Paso was largely devoid of specifics or a timeline for an immigration blueprint but more of a political call to action for reforms that have little-to-no support in conservative circles.
Obama argued that his administration made major strides in securing the border — a precondition for many Republicans — paving the way for a larger overhaul of the immigration system.
“We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement,” he said to a mostly supportive crowd. “But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I suspect there will be those who will try to move the goal posts one more time.”
He later quipped, “Maybe they’ll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.”
However, Obama also defended a record number of deportations under his watch, a major point of contention for liberal and immigration advocates.
“I know that the increase in deportations has been a source of controversy,” he said. “But I want to emphasize: We are not doing this haphazardly; we are focusing our limited resources on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income. As a result, we increased the removal of criminals by 70 percent.”
The speech is unlikely to produce political results, however, as Republicans have widely balked at the types of reforms he outlined, particularly creating a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the United States.