Answering a last-minute question after making remarks on the ongoing crises abroad, President Obama reiterated his commitment to moving forward unilaterally to make America’s immigration system “work better.”
“It continues to be my belief that if I can’t see congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better. But some of these things do affect timelines, and we’re going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done. But have no doubt, in the absence of congressional action, I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better,” Obama said Thursday.
According to Obama, who is rumored to be considering executive action to provide legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, he would prefer Congress act on immigration reform but does not foresee that as a possibility in the near future. He did express optimism that after the midterms Congress could move forward.
“In the meantime, what I have asked [Department of Homeland Security Secretary] Jeh Johnson to do is to look at what kinds of executive authorities we have in order to make the system work better,” Obama explained. “And we have had a lot of stakeholder discussions. That set of proposals is being worked up.”
Obama noted that the influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors illegally entering the U.S. has made more people take notice of immigration issues.
“One thing that I think has happened was the issue with unaccompanied children that got so much attention a couple of months back,” Obama said. “And part of the reason that was important was not because that represented a huge, unprecedented surge in overall immigration at the border, but I do think that it changed the perception the American people have about what’s happening at the borders. So one of the things we have had to do is to work through systematically, is to make sure that that specific problem in a fairly defined area of the border – that we are starting to deal with that in a serious way.”
The President continued to say that progress has been made on the issue of unaccompanied minors illegally coming to the United States, saying there have been fewer apprehensions of illegal immigrants over the past two months than months prior due to a decrease in illegal immigration by unaccompanied minors.
“What that allows us to do is to make sure that those kids are being taken care of properly, with due process. At the same time, it has allowed us to engage in a broader conversation about what we need to do to get more resources down at the border,” he continued. “It would have been helped along if Congress had voted for the supplemental that I asked for. They did not. That means we’ve got to make administrative and executive choices about, for example, getting more immigration judges down there. So that has kept us busy, but it has not stopped the process of looking more broadly about how we get a smarter immigration system in place while we are waiting for Congress to act.”