President Obama insisted Thursday he's the "champion in chief" for immigration reform, refuting Hispanic critics who've dubbed him the "deporter in chief."
Obama several times was pressed to defend his immigration record -- which includes deporting an unprecedented number of immigrants -- at a town hall meeting aimed at pitching his health care plan to Latinos.
Obama insisted he has championed an immigration overhaul that he's "constrained" by Congress's refusal to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul and must carry out legal deportations.
"I can not ignore those laws," he said. He said he's used executive action to prevent some deportations, including for college students brought here by their parents and suggested he could do no more unilateraly.
"That already stretched my administrative capacity," he said.
He was asked whether his credibility has taken a hit from the pace of deportations and pointed to his track record of support for the Dream Act students.
"I think the community understands I've got their back and I'm fighting for them," he said.
But immigration groups took issue with his remarks, saying he's not done enough to reduce deportations.
"As long as the president's Secure Communities deportation policy resembles Arizona's SB1070 more than California's TRUST ACT, he has no business claiming to be a champion of anything other than the misery that his policies have propagated," said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.