Despite the unanimous ruling of fact-checkers to the contrary, President Obama on Tuesday again claimed he had not reversed himself on his ability to use executive powers to halt deportations.
“The notion was that we could just stop deportations, period. And we can’t do that,” Mr. Obama told Univision’s Jorge Ramos in a testy interview. “What I’ve said very clearly, consistently, is that we have to enforce our immigration laws, but that we have prosecutorial discretion.”
Mr. Obama accused Mr. Ramos of doing “a disservice” by trying to suggest there are “simple, quick answers” to the problems he’s facing, and tried to enlist the Spanish-language network to try to recruit illegal immigrants to sign up for his temporary amnesty.
The president also quibbled with Mr. Ramos’s characterization of the questions he was asked before about the limits of his powers.
He said those previous questioners had asked if he could stop enforcing the deportation law — not whether he had power to pick and choose which illegal immigrants would be deported.
But fact-checkers have said that doesn’t jibe with reality.
“The questions posed to Obama earlier were very specific,” FactCheck.org said in its review last month titled “Obama’s Immigration Amnesia.” “They asked the president whether he had the authority to do the very kinds of things he is considering now.”
Politifact.com counts at least 15 times Mr. Obama denied he had the power to take the kinds of actions he eventually ended up taking, including a 2013 statement in which he’d said he’d already “stretched our administrative flexibility as much as we can.”
In Tuesday’s interview Mr. Ramos questioned why, if Mr. Obama had the power all along, he didn’t act earlier, which could have spared some of the 2 million illegal immigrants that have been deported under the president’s tenure.
“As president of the United States I’m always responsible for problems that aren’t solved right away,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Ramos. “I regret millions of people who didn’t get health insurance before I passed health insurance, and before I implemented it.”
He said he spent his time trying to get a broad legalization bill passed in Congress instead of taking the unilateral action, and said it was a “disservice” for Mr. Ramos to try to portray the political system as smoother than it is.
Mr. Obama has granted numerous interviews to Mr. Ramos, who is possibly the most influential Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S., and the two men have clashed before.
Mr. Obama told Mr. Ramos during the 2008 campaign that he would pursue an immigration bill in his first year in the White House. When that didn’t happen, Mr. Ramos challenged the president during his 2012 re-election bid — helping spur Mr. Obama to enact his earlier policy halting deportations for so-called Dreamers, or young adult illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.