In an exclusive interview with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, President Barack Obama defended his decision to delay executive action on immigration, saying the summer’s surge of unaccompanied children at the Mexican border changed the politics of the issue.
“The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,” Obama said in the interview, which will air on Sunday’s Meet the Press on NBC. “I want to spend some time, even as we're getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we're doing this, why it's the right thing for the American people, why it's the right thing for the American economy.”
Watch the full interview Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Todd’s debut as moderator of the longest-running show on network television. NBCNews.com will live stream the show at 9 a.m. ET.
In the sit-down with Todd, Obama rejected criticism that the postponement is merely a political tactic intended to help embattled Democrats in the months before contentious midterm elections, saying that the delay will help make new immigration policies “sustainable” when they are announced later this year.
“What I'm saying is that I'm going to act because it's the right thing for the country,” he said. “But it's going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what we've done on unaccompanied children, and why it's necessary.”
White House officials confirmed to NBC News earlier Saturday that the president will delay any executive action on immigration until after November.
“The reality the President has had to weigh is that we're in the midst of the political season, and because of the Republicans' extreme politicization of this issue, the President believes it would be harmful to the policy itself and to the long-term prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to announce administrative action before the elections,” a White House official said.
The administration continues to say that the president will take executive action to address the nation’s undocumented population before the end of the year. But furious immigration activists are deriding the delay as a reversal of Obama’s previous promises to curb deportations before the end of the summer.
“The president’s latest broken promise is another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community,” said Cristina Jimenez, the head of immigration rights group United We Dream. “Where we have demanded leadership and courage from both Democrats and the president, we’ve received nothing but broken promises and a lack of political backbone.”