White House press secretary Josh Earnest addresses the murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who has been deported at least 5 times.
JIM AVILA, ABC NEWS: On another subject, out in San Francisco, on the shooting that happened there. The administration has been focused on prioritizing criminals as far as deporting those who have violated our immigration laws. Is this a failure in this case where this man apparently — a criminal — came over time after time and still was able to keep coming and was not deported? Is there a problem between the cooperation between some cities in this country and the United States government? Where do you see the problem?
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Well, Jim, for this particular case, I’d refer you to DHS. I can’t speak to the details of this particular case. I can say as a general matter that as a part of the executive actions that the President announced back in November of last year, one of the chief goals that we are seeking to accomplish was ensuring that we were focusing our law enforcement efforts on those individuals who pose a genuine threat to public safety and to national security, that those are the efforts that should be prioritized. And too often, we’ve seen the failures of our immigration system allow for those limited law enforcement resources to be focused on breaking up families. The President doesn’t believe that that’s consistent with our values as a country. It’s also not consistent with the priority that the President places on protecting the public and protecting the American people.
So, because of the announcements that the President changed last year, we have started to make changes in terms of structuring and staffing at the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that our law enforcement efforts are focused on felons and not on families. And that is an effort that is continuing. I would say — and it bears repeating in this case — that these efforts would be significantly augmented had Republicans not blocked common-sense immigration reform.
You’ll recall that the piece of legislation that was blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives actually included the biggest-ever increase in border security. And that’s why it’s particularly disappointing that congressional action — or congressional inaction, in this case — has blocked efforts to put in place common-sense reforms that would be good for our country, good for our economy, and good for public safety.
AVILA: I hear your reluctance to comment on this case, but this case is being used by opponents of the administration to say that your policy is not working and that repeat criminals are coming across the border.
EARNEST: And what I’m saying is that those critics are individuals who oppose legislation that would have actually made a historic investment in border security. So I recognize that people want to play politics with this, but if you take a simple look at the facts, the fact is the President has done everything within his power to make sure that we’re focusing our law enforcement resources on criminals and those who pose a threat to public safety. And it’s because of the political efforts of Republicans that we have not been able to make the kind of investment that we would like to make in securing our border and keeping our communities safe.