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Obama: "Patchwork" Immigration Reform Won't Work

President Barack Obama said he understands frustration over the hot-button issue of illegal immigration, but warned against local authorities' "patchwork" attempts to enact reform on their own.

"I understand the frustration of people in Arizona. But what we can't do is demagogue the issue," Mr. Obama told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith in an exclusive interview. "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 gonna be anti-immigrant and I'm gonna try to see if I can solve the problem ourself.'"

Last week, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton temporarily halted controversial portions of Arizona's newly enacted immigration law, including the requirements for police officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws and for immigrants to carry their papers at all times.

The ruling sets up a lengthy legal battle that may end up in the Supreme Court.

Obama: "Bumpy Road Ahead" for America

While the Obama administration filed a legal challenge to the law, Mr. Obama still acknowledged the "mission of controlling our immigration processes are absolutely correct. And that's why my administration's actually put more resources on the border to the point where we now have more of everything - border patrols. More over flights and, you know, more immigration agents. You name it, we've got more of them.

Mr. Obama also said he wants to "work with Arizona" on the issue.

Obama on Afghanistan

Despite recent turbulence surrounding the Afghanistan war - from a change in American leadership on the ground to consistently increasing casualty rates - Mr. Obama continued to voice confidence in the United States' presence there and repeated his goal of starting a troop drawdown next summer.

"We now have a strategy that can work. We've got one of our best generals today, Petraeus, on the ground. I've been very clear that we are going to move forward on a process of training Afghans so that they can provide for their own security. And then by the middle of next year, by 2011, we are gonna start thinning out our troops and giving Afghans more responsibility," Mr. Obama told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith in an exclusive interview.

Gen. David Petraeus took command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July after Gen. Stanley McChrsystal resigned the previous month when critical comments he made about the administration surfaced in a Rolling Stone profile.

Aside from the change in leadership, Taliban resistance has stiffened and U.S. casualties have spiked during the summer. Six troop deaths Friday meant July became the deadliest month for U.S. forces since military operations began in 2001.

Despite the struggles, Mr. Obama asserted confidence in the mission's importance.

"If I didn't think that it was important for our national security to finish the job in Afghanistan, then I would pull them out today, because I have to sign letters to these families, families who have lost loved ones."

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Obama on the Economy

Mr. Obama also addressed continued frustration over a slowing economic recovery, saying the U.S. is only "half-way back."

"This has been an extraordinary downturn. So that means if you are in a deeper whole, it's going to take longer to come back," he said. "When we have lost as many jobs as we have, when … you have that much hardship, people losing values in their homes, and their 401ks, et cetera, people have every right to be scare and to be frustrated. And I picked this job because I was convinced that I could solve these problems, not just short term but long term. But I also knew this was a bumpy road ahead and I don't expect the American people to be satisfied when we are only half way back."

Obama on Oil Spill

Efforts to permanently seal the blown-out Gulf of Mexico oil well are expected to commence Monday night, but the long-term recovery - both in terms of environmental cleanup and compensating Gulf residents for lost income - will continue into the fall. BP has committed to pay the costs of spill, but also revealed last week that it was taking a $10 billion tax write-off on the money it has funneled into the spill response. Mr. Obama said he doesn't mind that "as long as they are meeting their obligations."

"I think that my priority has been to make sure that the fishermen, the store owners, the bait shop owners, those folks are made whole. We've gotten now a commitment that has almost completely determined the structure for $20 billion to help them. [BP is] also gonna have to … pay for the entire cleanup down there."

Smith interviewed Mr. Obama Friday in Detroit.

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