President Barack Obama told a Univision town hall today that his inability to achieve comprehensive immigration reform was the greatest failure of his first term.
Early on in the forum, co-host Jorge Ramos told President Obama that “I want you to acknowledge that you did not keep your promise” to tackle immigration reform in his first year in office.
Obama declined to apologize, explaining that the financial crisis pushed immigration off of his immediate agenda after his inauguration. “My first priority was making sure that we didn’t go into a Great Depression,” Obama said.
The president went on point to his executive order halting the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible youth as an example of his continued commitment to immigration reform. He also explained that when he tried to bring Congress together to discuss the issue, he was surprised and disappointed to see that the Republican party would not partner with him.
“What I confess I did not expect,” Obama said, “is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform…would suddenly walk away” from discussions on the topic.
Later in the forum, Obama was asked to name the greatest failure of his first term. “My biggest failure so far is that we haven’t gotten comprehensive immigration reform done,” he explained. “But it’s not for lack of trying or desire.”
“I haven’t gotten everything done that I wanted to do,” Obama later added. “That’s why I’m running for a second term.”
President Obama also used the forum to harshly rebuke Mitt Romney’s secretly recorded comments labeling 47 percent of Americans as “victims.”
“When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government,” Obama said, “my thinking is, maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot.”
He went on to explain that those who are not paying income tax “want a hand up, not a handout.” Obama also pointed out that people abuse the system on both ends of the economic spectrum. “There are a bunch of millionaires who aren’t paying taxes at all,” Obama said.
In addition to immigration and Romney’s comments, President Obama also fielded questions on the recent embassy attacks in Libya, the drug war, and education, among other topics. The full forum will be rebroadcast on Univision tonight at 10pm.