The plight of young illegal immigrants who are crossing into the United States is "heartbreaking," White House adviser John Podesta said Friday.
“This is a heartbreaking situation where you see 10-, 12-year-old kids unaccompanied by their parents fleeing violence, particular in Central America, trying to find their way up to the U.S.,” Podesta said at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.
President Obama has formed a task force of agency leaders to determine what the administration can do to cut down on unaccompanied children trying to enter the country.
Republicans have blamed the influx of illegal immigrants on the president’s “lax enforcement” of immigration laws. In 2012, Obama issued an executive order granting “Dreamers”— illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — a reprieve from deportation and work authorization. The policy does not apply to people entering the United States illegally today.
Obama has threatened to take more executive actions on immigration, but says he is holding off to see whether Republican leaders can pass legislation this summer.
Podesta said Obama sees an "opportunity" for Congress to make a breakthrough.
“That’s what the president thinks, that there’s an opportunity to get comprehensive immigration reform done,” Podesta said. “That is a much better solution and a permanent solution for a broken immigration system and the pain that it’s causing across the country.”
Podesta said Obama will wait out the summer to see if Republican leaders come up with a bill that can gain bipartisan support before deciding whether to pursue executive actions on immigration.
“We’ll have to think through what our options are if Congress is just unable to act,” he said, adding that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is studying what legal authorities he has to make changes to the immigration system.