Politics & Government

Obama defends decision to delay immigration actions

President Barack Obama defended his decision to delay executive actions on immigration, arguing that the decrease in the number of unaccompanied children entering the United States illegally changed the politics of the issue.

Obama rejected criticism that the postponement is just a political tactic intended to help embattled Democrats in the months before contentious midterm elections, saying that the delay will help make new immigration policies “sustainable” when they are announced later this year.

“I'm being honest now about the politics of it,” Obama said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This problem with unaccompanied children that we saw a couple weeks ago, where you had, from Central America, a surge of kids who were showing up at the border, got a lot of attention.”

Last month, the Obama administration stopped its aggressive months-long search for emergency shelters across the nation after announcing the number of children illegally crossing the southern border alone continues to drop. At the same time, three facilities at military bases in Texas, California and Oklahoma set up as shelters are no longer housing children from Central America.

The White House said Saturday that Obama will postpone until after the election his plans to act on his own to change immigration laws.

Officials blamed Republican opposition for delaying Obama’s plans to act until the end of the year. But the White House was feeling pressure from vulnerable Senate Democrats who feared a controversial change in immigration law _ made without congressional approval _ would energize Republican voters and hurt them at the ballot box in November.

The decision infuriated immigration advocates who accused Obama of breaking a promise. They had expected a plan for temporary legal status to help some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants stay and work in the U.S. They said his decision will mean more deportations.

“The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,” Obama said in the interview. “I want to spend some time, even as we're getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we're doing this, why it's the right thing for the American people, why it's the right thing for the American economy.”

Sunday marked Obama’s 12th appearance on the talk show, but the first with new host Chuck Todd, who started this weekend. The interview was taped Saturday and aired Sunday.