President Obama speaking at a Hispanic online roundtable discussion hosted by Yahoo!, MSN Latino, AOL Latino and HuffPost LatinoVoices on September 28, 2011.
GABRIEL LERNER: Mr. President you just mention enforcement of immigration laws in the subject of deportations, and you said that many of those- or it’s aimed at criminals but until now and until recently, it hadn’t been just criminals, or a majority of criminals those that have been deported. And also you have been deporting much more immigrants than the previous administration did in eight years. So laws didn’t change; enforcement was done even then. Why that emphasis on deportation during your administration.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Actually what happened if you look at the statistics, two things happened. Number one is, is that there was a much greater emphasis on criminals rather than non-criminals. And there’s been a huge shift in terms of enforcement. And that began as soon as I came into office, that change has taken place. Secondly the statistics are actually a little deceptive because what we’ve been doing is with the stronger border enforcement we’ve been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back. That is counted as a deportation even though they may have only been held for a day, or 48 hours sent back. That’s counted as a deportation. So we’ve been much more effective on the borders but we have not been more aggressive when it comes to dealing for example with DREAM ACT kids, that’s just not the case. So what we’ve tried to do is within the constraints of the laws on the books, we’ve tried to be as fair, humane, just, as we can, recognizing though that the laws themselves need to be changed. And I’ve been unwavering in my support of changing the laws so that we’re strong on border security, we’re going after companies that are taking advantage of undocumented workers, paying them sub-minimum wages, you know not respecting workplace safety laws, but also saying that we’ve got to have a pathway to citizenship and for legal status for those who are already here and have put roots down here and are part of the fabric of our community because we actually believe that they can contribute to our economy in an effective way.
The other thing that we want to emphasize is for those who have an ambition to start a business, entrepreneurs, young people who have gotten college degrees or advanced degrees, for us to train them here in the United States and then to send them back to start businesses elsewhere makes absolutely no sense. The history of many of our biggest businesses is they were started by immigrants who came here seeking opportunity. And we want to make sure that, both in terms of people who are here doing jobs that other folks may not want to do, but also people who have extraordinary training and can create jobs for all Americans, that we are giving both of those folks opportunities.