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President Obama to Jose Diaz Balart on Immigration: Republicans Should Move in "Smarter Direction…for Their Own Political Self-Interest"

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Yesterday, President Obama sat down to talk to Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart.  They talked about everything from Libya to jobs to Latino families–but the last question was about immigration.  In response to a question about how he planned to pursue comprehensive immigration reform during a second term in office, President Obama predicted that Republicans after the election might reconsider the paths they took and decide to move in “a smarter direction”–“if nothing else, for their own political self-interest.”

Here’s the full question and response below:

Jose Diaz Balart: Last question on immigration. A lot of the questions that I asked people to submit on Twitter and Facebook were about immigration reform and a record number of deportations under your administration. Some are asking, if you were not able to get comprehensive immigration reform in the first two years of your administration when you had the House and the Senate, how could you promise or how could you do that in the second term if you have a divided House? A divided Congress?

Pres. Obama: Well, I think a lot of this is going to depend on the response of Republicans to this election and what they see in terms of Latino turnout. You know, it’s very interesting. George Bush, he and I disagreed on a lot, but he and I agreed on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Partly because he had seen the importance of the Latino vote and the contribution of Latinos in his home state of Texas. John McCain, I disagreed with him on a lot of issues, but he agreed on comprehensive immigration reform. There is a tradition within the Republican Party to do the right thing on this issue. And it’s only been since I was elected and we saw the Senate Republicans and now the House Republicans, suddenly resist.

Well, I think that the Latino community recognizes that. When you look at the steps we’ve taken to not only open up to DREAMers the possibility of deferred action, and the good news is we’ve not only seen not only a great response of people applying, but we’re processing those applications as promised in a timely fashion. And that’s making a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. But when you also look at the shift that we’ve taken in terms of enforcement, saying let’s focus on those who are engaging in criminal activity, not people who are just doing their work and raising families and our a part of our communities, we’ve done what we can do administratively.

I predict that after the election, there are going to be Republicans who once again recognize, “You know what? We took the wrong path here. We need to move in a smarter direction.” If nothing else, for their own political self-interest. I hope they do it because they recognize that this is a nation of law and a nation of immigrants, and if that we give people an opportunity to get right with the law, pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English, be good law-abiding citizens, that giving them the opportunity to be legal in this country and pursue their dreams, that that’s ultimately going to be good for America.

Read the transcript of the full interview here.