Wall Street Journal
By Byron Tau
December 10, 2014
President Barack Obama and Univision’s Jorge Ramos got into a testy exchange on the Obama administration’s record on deportation — with Mr. Ramos telling the president that he had “destroyed many families.”
In an interview that aired Tuesday on Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, Mr. Ramos pressed the president on a 2011 claim that he couldn’t order a halt through deportations. Mr. Obama recently announced an executive action estimated to aid some five million people, including reprieve from deportation for millions, sidestepping Congress.
“In March 2011 on a Univision town hall meeting you told us, and I quote, ‘With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case.’ That’s exactly what you did,” Mr. Ramos said, before adding: “Why did you change your mind?”
“What I’ve said very clearly, 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,” Mr. Obama replied.
The long exchange — part of a broader interview with Mr. Ramos on terrorism, immigration and other topics — is emblematic of the ongoing tension between Mr. Obama and some in the Latino community who believe that he did not act aggressively enough on his own to change the nation’s immigration policy, especially to curb deportations.
“As you were saying, you always had the legal authority to stop deportations, then why did you deport two million people?” Mr. Ramos asked, adding: “You destroyed many families. They called you deporter-in-chief.”
“You called me deporter-in-chief,” Mr. Obama replied, before being corrected by Mr. Ramos that it was Janet Murguía of the National Council of La Raza who called him “deporter-in-chief” in remarks earlier this year.
Mr. Obama acknowledged that responsibility ultimately fell to him regarding the pace of change but said that the country was moving in the right direction on the issue.
“As president of the United States I’m always responsible for problems that aren’t solved right away. I regret millions of people who didn’t get health insurance before I passed health insurance and before I implemented it. I regret the fact that there are kids who should’ve been going to college during my presidency, but because we didn’t get to them fast enough, they gave up on college. The question is, are we doing the right thing, and have we consistently tried to move this country in a better direction,” Mr. Obama said.
Here is a transcript of the exchange, as provided by Univision:
JR: But if you — as you were saying, you always had the legal authority to stop deportations, then why did you deport two million people
POTUS: Jorge, we’re not going to –
JR: For six years you did it.
POTUS: No. Listen, Jorge –
JR: You destroyed many families. They called you deporter-in-chief.
POTUS: You called me deporter-in-chief.
JR: It was Janet Murguia from La Raza.
POTUS: Yeah, but let me say this, Jorge –
JR: Well, you could have stopped deportations.
POTUS: No, no, no.
JR: That’s the whole idea.
POTUS: That is not true. Listen, here’s the fact of the matter.
JR: You could have stopped them.
POTUS: Jorge, here’s the fact of the matter. As President of the United States I’m always responsible for problems that aren’t solved right away. I regret millions of people who didn’t get health insurance before I passed health insurance and before I implemented it. I regret the fact that there are kids who should’ve been going to college during my presidency, but because we didn’t get to them fast enough, they gave up on college. The question is, are we doing the right thing, and have we consistently tried to move this country in a better direction. And those, like you sometimes, Jorge, who suggests that there are simple quick answers to these problems, I think –
JR: I never said that though.
POTUS: Yes, you do, because that’s how you present it, and I think when you — when you present it–
JR: But you had the authority –
POTUS: – when you present it in that way, it does a disservice, because it makes the assumption that the political process is one that can easily be moved around, depending on the will of one person and that’s now how things work.
JR: What I’m just saying –
POTUS: We spent that entire time trying to get a comprehensive immigration reform bill done that would solve the problem for all the people. So right now, by the actions that I’ve taken, I still have five million people who do not have the ability to get registered and be confident that they’re not deported. In fact, what’s going to happen, sometime over the next two days, week, month is that that they’re going to be some folks who are still caught up in the system because we have to go and train ICE workers so that they are responding in a different way. And so the question I have for you, Jorge, because you’re going to have a big voice, is are you going to do a good job in, now that we’ve taken these actions, making sure that people understand what their opportunities are, how we can take advantage of it, and how we can build to make sure that going forward, not only as many people register as possible, if you’ve been here for five years, if you have a child who’s an American citizen or a legal permanent resident, that you are likely to end up signing up — so that we build up that capacity, and we lay the groundwork for passing comprehensive immigration reform. Because if we don’t do that, then it is true that there are going to be a whole bunch of folks who try to push back, and this is necessarily a temporary measure designed to help as many people as we can right now, but we’ve still got a big fight that we’re going to have to take in the future.
JR: I could continued on immigration, but –
POTUS: You could –
POTUS: — and I’d be happy to do it, but you’re probably running out of time.
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