Earnest: Obama's "Desire To Act" Strengthened By Broad Support For Immigration Reform


JON KARL, ABC NEWS: You've made a case here and we have heard it before that the American public supports immigration reform. That there is support enough in Congress to pass it. If only a bill would come up for a vote it would pass and it would be signed into law. I am wondering if is the White House's assessment, is the president's assessment that set of facts as you see them affects the president's view of what he is able to do and what he is permitted to do to act on his own? In other words, does that change the calculus given that your assessment of popular support, more than enough support to pass in Congress if it only were not being unfairly blocked. Does that therefore would give the president some broader powers to act on his own?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Well, the assessment of what powers the president can wield on his own to address this problem is something that will be determined by legal experts. In this case, under the leadership of the Attorney General of the United States and the Secretary of Homeland Security. But, I do think as a practical matter, the president's desire to act where Congress has failed is strengthened by the fact that there is such broad support all across the country for trying to impose commonsense solutions to a problem or a set of problems everybody acknowledges exist. So, but, the scope of possible or potential executive actions that could be taken to address some of these problems is something that will be determined by the legal review that is still ongoing.

KARL: Let me ask it this way. The president several times and from his podium your predecessor several times when asked by advocacy groups for immigration reform why doesn't the president act alone, why doesn't he do what he did under DACA for the whole spectrum or the whole population of those who are in the country illegally? Is it your -- does the president still stand by those statements? Does he still think that I've done what I can -- as he has said in the past -- I've done what I can on my own, what needs to happen now is legislative action? Or has that view changed?

EARNEST: The president's view has not changed. The only thing that has changed is that for some period of time that extended more than a year, there was an opportunity for Congress to take action to address these problems. And the fact is... any of the problems or any of the potential actions the president could take would not be as enduring or robust as policies that could be put in place by Congress. That is just the way our system is structured. And legislation in this area would have a more far lasting impact on these problems than any sort of executive action the president would be able to take.

That is why the president has been transparent about saying by the end of the summer, I'm going to consider a review that has been conducted by the AG and the Secretary of Homeland Security and I'm going to take what steps are within the confines of the law to mitigate some of the problems that have been posed by the broken immigration system. If, however, Congress returns from their August recess and comes to their senses and decides that they should actually consider a common sense set of reforms for a broken immigration system, the president would be happy for that piece of legislation to supersede the executive actions that he's taken to address this problem. So, this doesn't eliminate the need for Congress to act, it is just him acting where Congress has refused.

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