President Barack Obama on Saturday defended his decision to delay taking executive action on immigration, saying he wasnt playing election year politics when he decided to wait until after the November elections to act.
In an interview taped Saturday for NBCs Meet the Press, Obama said he didnt decide to delay action in order to save vulnerable Senate Democrats from losing their seats in the midterm elections. Thats not the reason, he said.
So why did he delay taking executive action on immigration? Obama said he did it because the influx of unaccompanied minors coming across the border shifted the politics on immigration, and he wants more time to explain to the American people why he is taking action.
The truth of the matter is, that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem, Obama said in the interview with NBCs Chuck Todd that aired Sunday. I want to spend some time, even as were getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why were doing this, why its the right thing for the American people, why its the right thing for the American economy.
Obamas comments about the politics of immigration shifting are supported by a poll released last week by the Pew Research Center. The poll shows the share of people who favor a focus on better border security and tougher enforcement of immigration laws jumped from 25 percent in February 2013 to 33 percent in August 2014.
The poll also shows there has been little change in the share of people who say the priority should be on creating a way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they meet certain criteria, going from 25 percent in February 2013 to 23 percent in August 2014.
At the same time, the poll shows the share of people who say both approaches should be prioritized equally fell from 47 percent in February 2013 to 41 percent in August 2015.
Obama had originally promised to take executive action to overhaul the nations immigration system before the end of the summer. His decision to delay action disappointed many immigration advocates who for months had been calling on him to take bold executive actions to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The president concluded the interview on Meet the Press by saying he wants to create sustainable policies on immigration.
When I take executive action, I want to make sure that its sustainable, he said. Im going to act because its the right thing for the country. But its going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what weve done on unaccompanied children, and why its necessary.