President Barack Obama on Monday told a student who has received a deportation notice that he does not want to deport her — he wants people like her to succeed.
The exchange happened during a town hall event sponsored by the Spanish-language television network Univision at a Washington, D.C., school.
A student, who appeared via Skype, asked: â€śMy question for the president is, why [is the government] saying that deportations have stopped — or the detention of many students like me, why is it that we are still receiving deportation letters like this one?â€ť
Obama answered, â€śWe have redesigned our enforcement practices under the law to make sure that weâ€™re focusing primarily on criminals, and so our deportation of criminals are up about 70 percent. Our deportation of non-criminals are down, and thatâ€™s because we want to focus our resources on those folks who are destructive to the community.
â€śAnd for a young person like that young woman that we just spoke to whoâ€™s going to school, doing all the right things, we want them to succeed,” Obama said.
“I have been such a strong proponent of the DREAM Act–why I reiterated during my State of the Union speech that we need to pass the DREAM Act,” said Obama. â€śWe came close in the December. It almost happened.â€ť
The president later added, â€śAmerica is a nation of laws, which means I, as the president, am obligated to enforce the law.â€ť
After the president addressed the illegal-alien studentâ€™s question, the moderator of the event asked Obama, â€śMr. President, my question will be as follows: With an executive order, could you be able to stop deportation of the students?â€ť
Obama said, â€śThere are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates, would not conform with my appropriate role as president.â€ť
â€śThat does not mean, though, that we canâ€™t make decisions, for example, to emphasize enforcement on those whoâ€™ve engaged in criminal activity,â€ť said Obama. â€śIt also doesnâ€™t mean that we canâ€™t strongly advocate and propose legislation that would change the law in order to make it more fair, more just, and ultimately would help young people who are here and trying to do the right thing â€“and those talents we want to embrace in order to succeed as a country.â€ť
The town hall took place at the Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. Attendees of the town hall included students and parents.
The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which failed to pass during the lame-duck session of Congress in 2010, would have allowed young illegal immigrants who have been in the states for at least five years to acquire legal status if they pass background checks, attend college or serve in the military for at least two years.
The president also called for â€ścomprehensive immigration reformâ€ť and added that the U.S. immigration system is broken.
â€śWe have to have secure borders, we have to make sure that businesses are not exploiting undocumented workers, but we have to have a pathway to citizenship for those who are just looking for a better life and contributing to our country and Iâ€™ll continue to fight for them,â€ť said Obama.