Updated 7:31 p.m. | President Barack Obama's town hall airing now on Telemundo included a vow to veto any efforts to roll back his immigration executive actions — and warned of consequences for immigration agents who don't follow his new directives.
With host Jose Diaz-Balart and an audience of 268 people, Obama blamed Republicans for trying to block his efforts to overhaul the immigration system, per the White House pool report.
“Unfortunately a group of Republican governors sued. They found a District Court judge who enjoined… but that’s just the first part of the process. This is just one federal judge. We have appealed it very aggressively. We’re going to be as aggressive as we can," Obama said, per the White House pool. "In the meantime, what we said to Republicans is, ‘Instead of trying to hold hostage funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is so important for our national security, fund that and let’s get on with passing comprehensive immigration reform.’”
Obama then vowed to veto efforts by House and Senate Republicans "over whether what I'm doing is legal or not."
"I will veto that vote because I’m absolutely confident it’s the right thing we do," Obama said to applause.
Obama also said his other efforts to change deportation enforcement policies will continue although they won't solve every case.
“Every time you have a big bureaucracy and you change policy there is going to be one or two or three instances where people apparently haven’t gotten the message. ...We’re going to be focusing on criminals; we’re going to be focusing on potential felons.”
Obama was questioned by a young veteran wounded in Afghanistan who was worried his mother will be deported.
"You’re a great example of why this issue is so important," Obama said.
“I’m confident that your mother qualified under the executive action I have put forward. … If you qualified for the executive action I put forward we’re still going to make sure your mom is not prioritized for enforcement. She should feel confident about that. I want her to feel confident about that short-term. Long-term we need to get a path to citizenship.”
Obama also hinted at consequences for officials who don't follow the new enforcement directives.
"There are going to be some jurisdictions and there may be individual ICE official or Border Control agent not paying attention to our new directives. But they’re going to be answerable to the head of Homeland Security because he’s been very clear about what our priorities will be. ...If somebody’s working for ICE … and they don’t follow the policy, there’s going to be consequences to it.”
Obama also noted that his actions are not permanent and only a law would solve the problem.
“Not only are we going to have to win this legal fight.. but ultimately we’re still going to pass a law through Congress. The bottom line is I’m using all the legal power invested in me in order to solve this problem.”
Obama also looked ahead to 2016, saying that presidential candidates should be asked about the issue.
"When they start asking for votes, the first question should be, ‘Are you really going to deport 11 million people? If not, what’s your plan?’ ... We’re going to have to keep on the political process on a separate track.”
Obama added that he hasn't yet given up passing a comprehensive overhaul while he is president.
"I’m not just going to stand still over the next two years. … Over the long term, this is going to get solved because at some point there’s going to be a President Rodriguez or a President Shin because we’re a nation of immigrants. So what I would say to the next president is think ahead…think long-term.”
Obama was also asked why he didn't push harder when Democrats controlled Congress. His excuses included the need to deal with the financial crisis.
Obama ended by joking at Diaz-Balart about getting older to the crowd.
“He looks a little better because I don’t dye my hair," Obama said to laughter.Related: Harry Reid Decides to Take Yes for an Answer On DHS Funding, House Republicans Agree to Wait on Senate House GOP in Holding Pattern on Funding DHS McConnell Throws in Towel on DHS Fight, but Reid Waiting for Boehner to Cave McConnell Offers Plan to Break DHS Logjam Hoyer on Short-Term DHS Bill: ‘Cross That Bridge When We Come to It’ Senate Democrats Show Limits of GOP Spending Strategy DOJ to Appeal Immigration Ruling Immigration Ruling Casts Shadow on Obama’s Legacy Reid Allies See Immigration Fight Helping Re-Election Boehner: House Has Done Its Job to Fund DHS White House Thinks GOP Will Blink on Immigration Action Obama: Back Immigration Action Because of Christmas, Bible Obama’s Own Words on Immigration Are Republicans’ Best Ammo Obama Immigration Action Full Speed Ahead
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