Sep 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Obama: Del Rio migrant crisis is "reminder that we don't have this right"

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a drive-in campaign rally with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Belle Isle on October 31, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan.
Former President Barack Obama speaks during a drive-in campaign rally with Joe Biden on Oct. 31, 2020, in Detroit. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" called the migrant crisis at the border in Del Rio, Texas, "heartbreaking" and a "painful reminder that we don't have this right yet."

Driving the news: Obama told Robin Roberts that comprehensive immigration reform is needed to fix "a system that, overall, is dysfunctional," ABC News reports.

  • "It's no secret that we don't have that. It's the reason I proposed comprehensive immigration reform," Obama said during an interview that aired Tuesday. "It's the reason Joe Biden proposed it during his administration, and it's something that is long overdue."

The big picture: Obama's remarks come as the Biden administration is drawing criticism for its handling of the migrant surge at the border in Del Rio.

  • The Biden administration used a Trump-era public health order, called Title 42, that fast-tracked deportations of migrant families at the southern border.

What he's saying: "Immigration is tough. It always has been because, on the one hand, I think we are naturally a people that wants to help others," Obama said.

  • "At the same time, we're a nation-state. We have borders. The idea that we can just have open borders is something that ... as a practical matter, is unsustainable."

Obama also expressed support for Biden's efforts to forge Democratic Party unity over the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package, which Obama said the country "desperately needs."

  • "Any time Democrats try to pass legislation, there's gonna be some negotiation and back and forth and sometimes some arguments that spill out into the press," Obama said.
  • "At the end of the day though, Democrats believe that we can make an economy that is fair, that we can address critical issues like climate change in a smart way."

What to watch: Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday will lead the groundbreaking festivities for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

Go deeper: Obama to break ground on presidential library in Chicago

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