White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama wasn't speaking literally last week when he told a Chicago crowd, “I just took action to change the law.”
“I think he was speaking colloquially about what he has put in place, meaning that it’s the responsibility of the United States Congress to pass laws and it’s the responsibility of the executive branch to implement and enforce them,” Earnest told reporters Tuesday in response to a question.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, where he spoke about the president's schedule and answering questions on topics including Ferguson and the economy. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
“The impact of the law certainly has been changed in terms of the way it affects millions of people who are in this country. I think that’s what the president was alluding to,” Earnest continued. “I think he was speaking colloquially.”
Speaking in Chicago on Nov. 25, Obama defended his executive actions to shield as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. An audience member was heckling the president over deportations that have occurred.
“All right, I've listened to you. I heard you. I heard you. I heard you. All right? Now, I've been respectful. I let you holler,” Obama told the heckler. “Nobody is removing you. I've heard you. But you’ve got to listen to me, too. All right?”
Obama continued to try to explain himself to the audience.
“Now, you're absolutely right that there have been significant numbers of deportations. That's true,” Obama said. “But what you're not paying attention to is the fact that I just took action to change the law. So that's point number one.”
“Point number two, the way the change in the law works is that we're reprioritizing how we enforce our immigration laws generally,” Obama continued. “So not everybody qualifies for being able to sign up and register, but the change in priorities applies to everybody.”