President Barack Obama has strong words for the crop of Republican presidential candidates when it comes to immigration. During the annual Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala, the president criticized the GOP for what he deems to be a pervasive anti-Latino sentiment (video below).
"The anti-immigrant sentiment that has infected our politics is not new, but it is wrong," Obama says in the Oct. 8 speech, according to USA Today. Obama reminded his audience that the majority of U.S. ethnicities and creeds were originally immigrants.
“Unless you were one of the first Americans — unless you're Navajo or Cherokee — somebody somewhere came from someplace else,” Obama continues.
The president cited his predecessor, George W. Bush, as a Republican who had supported a path to citizenship. During his time as president, Bush had proposed a path to citizenship and called upon the country to resist demonizing undocumented immigrants.
"Think how much better our economy would be if the rest of his party got the message,” says Obama.
Undocumented immigrants have been a fixation in the 2016 presidential race. According to the Huffington Post, even GOP candidates like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who have both previously championed immigration reform, no longer support a path to amnesty.
Obama took both Rubio and Bush to task during his speech, according to USA Today.
"Now some of the very same Republican politicians who championed reform in the past — some of whom sponsored these efforts — suddenly they want nothing to do with it,” says the president.
Current front-runner Donald Trump has made immigration the centerpiece of his candidacy. Trump has promised to build an ‘impenetrable’ wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, deport undocumented immigrants en masse and rescind birthright citizenship if he is elected president, according to the Huffington Post.
"You've got to recognize that America's greatness does not come from building walls," says Obama in retaliation to Trump’s stance, USA Today reports. "Our greatness comes from building opportunity."
While the Obama administration has seen a peak in deportations, the number of undocumented immigrants returned to their home countries has sharply dropped in the last 12 months, Fox News reports. New government figures shows only 231,000 deportations this past year, a 42 percent drop since 2012.
Obama asserts that he does believe that undocumented immigrants should have to pay some price, USA Today reports.
"I believe that people who come here illegally should have to pay a fine, and pay their fair share of taxes, and get registered, and get right with the law and go to the back of the line before they earn citizenship," Obama says.