President Obama said statistics that show his administration is on track to deport more illegal immigrants than the Bush administration are misleading.
“The statistics are a little deceptive,” he said Wednesday in an online discussion aimed at Hispanic voters.
He said his administration has focused on deporting illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes.
“Our enforcement priority is not to chase down young people who are following all the other laws,” he said.
The online talk was hosted by Yahoo, MSN Latino and AOL Latino/Huffington Post Latino Voice. Users submitted their questions online for the president.
Obama renewed his call to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“We are a nation of laws, but we are also a nation of immigrants,” he said, adding that illegal immigrants applying for citizenship will have to meet a series of requirements, likely including paying a fine or learning English.
Critics of a pathway to citizenship decry it as amnesty for immigrants who have broken the law.
The president acknowledged that the chance of pushing comprehensive immigration reform through a Republican-controlled House is slim.
“Our key approach is trying to push Republicans back to where they were only a few years ago,” he said.
When Obama was asked for his thoughts on the eventual Republican presidential nominee possibly choosing Hispanic Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioTHE MEMO: Trump takes the fight to Congress Rubio says town halls designed for people to 'heckle and scream' At CPAC, Trump lashes out at media MORE (R-Fla.) as his or her running mate, the president said: “I am absolutely certain that within my lifetime we will have a Latino candidate for president who will be competitive and might even win.”
The event was Obama’s latest effort to engage the public online, but his first Hispanic-focused online event. He participated in a Twitter town hall in July, a Facebook town hall in April and a LinkedIn town hall earlier this week.
— This post was updated at 2 p.m.