Obama: U.S. Can't "Demagogue" Immigration

CBS

President Obama described officials who "demagogue" immigration or take sudden "anti-immigrant" stances as people who want to make a name for themselves and not help solve what he called "a national problem."

Mr. Obama spoke with CBS "Early Show" Anchor Harry Smith in an interview scheduled to be broadcast in parts on Sunday and Monday.

The interview comes after the Obama administration scored a major victory in its fight to strike down an Arizona law that, among other things, makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. Last week, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing the most controversial parts of the law from going into effect.

As National Guard troops start heading to the U.S.-Mexico border this month under direction from the administration, Mr. Obama told Smith he wants to work with Arizona.

"I understand the frustration of people in Arizona," Mr. Obama said. "But what we can't do is demagogue the issue, and what we can't do is allow a patchwork of 50 different states, or cities or localities, where anybody who wants to make a name for themselves suddenly says, 'I'm going to be anti-immigrant, and I'm going try to see if I can solve the problem ourself.' This is a national problem."

The president also told Smith he was going to call Republicans "on their bluff" on ways to reduce the national debt.

"We've got a lot of debt," Mr. Obama said. "We've got a lot of deficit. Now the Republicans have said that this is their No. 1 concern. I'm going to call them on their bluff. I want to see their ideas for how we're going to deal with these issues. I'm going to have a bunch of ideas."

The president said he is "stunned" that the GOP hasn't embraced ideas he said Republicans have endorsed in the past.

"We've put together a small business package that is as bipartisan a set of ideas as you can imagine, and these are all what historically have been not just Democratic ideas but Republican ideas, and all we've been hearing is "no" from the other side in the Senate," Mr. Obama said. "I am stunned that you can't get any Republican support for ideas that have been traditionally championed by not just Democrats but Republicans, and it's a sign of how politics is getting in the way of good decisions that will put our country in a much stronger position."

The entire interview is expected to be broadcast on CBS' "Sunday Morning" Sunday and "The Early Show" Monday.

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  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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