Office of Public Engagement

President Obama on Obstruction of the DREAM Act: "Maybe My Biggest Disappointment" of Last Weeks

Today, before leaving for the holiday, President Obama held a news conference to discuss the highlights of the lame duck session.  He also discussed in depth his disappointment at Congress’ inability to pass the DREAM Act and spoke with great heart about why it is important to address this important issue, in addition to broader immigration reform, in the coming Congress.   Please take a look at the President’s full answer to the question by clicking the link below.  It’s well worth the watch. 

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Transcript:

But I will tell you, maybe my biggest disappointment was this DREAM Act vote.  You know, I get letters from kids all across the country -- came here when they were five, came here when they were eight; their parents were undocumented.  The kids didn’t know -- kids are going to school like any other American kid, they’re growing up, they’re playing football, they’re going to class, they’re dreaming about college.  And suddenly they come to 18, 19 years old and they realize even though I feel American, I am an American, the law doesn’t recognize me as an American.  I’m willing to serve my country, I’m willing to fight for this country, I want to go to college and better myself -- and I’m at risk of deportation.

And it is heartbreaking.  That can’t be who we are, to have kids -- our kids, classmates of our children -- who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own.  They didn’t break a law -- they were kids.

So my hope and expectation is that, first of all, everybody understands I am determined and this administration is determined to get immigration reform done.  It is the right thing to do.  I think it involves securing our borders, and my administration has done more on border security than any administration in recent years.  We have more of everything -- ICE, Border Patrol, surveillance, you name it. 

So we take border security seriously.  And we take going after employers who are exploiting and using undocumented workers, we take that seriously.  But we need to reform this immigration system so we are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants.  And at minimum, we should be able to get the DREAM Act done.

And so I’m going to go back at it and I’m going to engage in Republicans who, I think, some of them, in their heart of hearts, know it’s the right thing to do, but they think the politics is tough for them.

Well, that may mean that we’ve got to change the politics.  And I’ve got to spend some time talking to the American people, and others have to spend time talking to the American people, because I think that if the American people knew any of these kids -- they probably do, they just may not know their status -- they’d say, of course we want you.  That's who we are.  That's the better angels of our nature. 

And so one thing I hope people have seen during this lame duck -- I am persistent.  I am persistent.  If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it.  And I believe strongly in this.

And I am happy to engage with the Republicans about -- if they’ve got ideas about more on border security, I’m happy to have that conversation.  And I think that it is absolutely appropriate for the American people to expect that we don't have porous borders and anybody can come in here any time.  That is entirely legitimate.

But I also think about those kids.  And I want to do right by them, and I think the country is going to want to do right by them, as well.

Stephanie Valencia is an Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement

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