Former President Barack Obama spoke out April 24 in defense of immigrants in the country illegally, saying the immigration system in the U.S. has always been haphazard.
Obama made the remarks at his first public event since leaving the White House, the Washington Examiner reported.
"It's not like everybody at Ellis Island had all their paperwork straight," he said at the University of Chicago.
The former president noted immigration had never been straightforward.
"The truth is the history of our immigration system has always been a little bit haphazard, a little bit loose, a little bit determined by, did the country want more workers, economic imperatives," he added.
While cautioning Democrats not to label everyone who wants a stricter immigration regime as a "racist," Obama also urged opponents of immigration to realize they were dealing with real people.
"For those who are concerned about undocumented workers coming in, whether it's across the border or more typically these days, overstaying visas, it's important for them to appreciate these are overwhelmingly families that are looking for a better life for their children," said Obama.
His comments came as Organizing for Action, a group linked to Obama, announced April 21 that it was launching an advertising campaign aimed at pressuring Senate and House Republicans in districts with large Latino populations to reject funding for President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.
The issue will be front and center in Congress over the coming days, with Democrats and Republicans having to agree on a spending bill by April 28 to avoid a government shutdown.
Organizing for Action's ads began appearing on Facebook April 24. They target Republican Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Both are considered to be at risk of losing their seats to Democrats in 2018.
The ads appeal to voters to contact their representatives to persuade them not to fund Trump's border wall or the deportation force being created to remove immigrants in the country without permission.
"This administration wants to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on a massive border wall and a cruel deportation force, but only Congress can actually appropriate that spending," Organizing for Action's Jesse Lehrich told Politico. "We want key members to know that if they vote to fund this discriminatory immigration agenda with their constituents' money, they'll be held accountable."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated April 24 why he believes the wall is necessary.
"Illegal border crossings have 'already been reduced as much as 70 percent ... and we're going to get it to zero and keep it there," Sessions said, according to the Daily Mail.
Trump addressed the issue on Twitter.
"If the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be! #BuildTheWall," he tweeted April 24.