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POLITICS: White House

Obama: We can't get immigration done because of the GOP's 'nativist elements'

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Immigration,Barack Obama,Republican Party,Becket Adams

The Republican Party’s “nativist elements” have successfully undermined Congress’ many attempts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama griped in an interview published over the weekend by the Economist.

Obama’s remarks were made during a broader discussion that covered the health of the U.S. economy, job growth and the responsibilities of business leaders.

“There’s a huge gap between the professed values and visions of corporate CEOs and how their lobbyists operate in Washington,” he said, claiming that businesses must be genuine when it comes to being socially engaged and giving back to the community.

“And I’ve said this to various CEOs. When they come and they have lunch with me,” he added, “and they’ll say, you know what, we really care about the environment, and we really care about education, and we really care about getting immigration reform done — then my challenge to them consistently is, is your lobbyist working as hard on those issues as he or she is on preserving that tax break that you’ve got? And if the answer is no, then you don’t care about it as much as you say.”

However, he continued, the business community has shown a genuine interest in seeing immigration reform passed.

“Now, to their credit, I think on an issue like immigration reform, for example, companies did step up,” he said.

But this broad support from the business community has been undermined by the GOP’s unwillingness to see comprehensive reform passed in Congress, he said.

“And what they’re discovering is the problem is not the regulatory zealotry of the Obama administration; what they’re discovering is the dysfunction of a Republican Party that knows we need immigration reform, knows that it would actually be good for its long-term prospects, but is captive to the nativist elements in its party,” Obama said.

The president concluded his lengthy interview by once again explaining what he believes is the proper role of business, capitalism and “wealth distribution” in the United States.

“How do we preserve the incredible dynamism of the capitalist system while making sure that the distribution of wealth and incomes and goods and services in that system is broadly based, is widely spread?” he asked.

“And the reason I’m concerned about this is not in any way a punitive notion. Oftentimes, you’ll hear some hedge-fund manager say, 'Oh, he’s just trying to stir class resentment'. No. Feel free to keep your house in the Hamptons and your corporate jet, etc. I’m not concerned about how you’re living. I am concerned about making sure that we have a system in which the ordinary person who is working hard and is being responsible can get ahead and are seeing modest improvements in their life prospects, if not for themselves, then certainly for the next generation,” he added.

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