NASHVILLE, Tenn. - President Barack Obama traveled here Tuesday to make a pitch for his controversial immigration action, telling an audience in the city with one of the nation’s fastest growing immigrant populations that it’s a start -- but that he needs Congress to complete an overhaul.
Obama took questions from the audience at Casa Azafran, an immigrant community center, urging immigrants to take advantage of his recently-issued executive action that extends relief from deportation and work permits to an estimated 4 million who are in the U.S. illegally.
Obama acknowledged the issue is controversial, but said immigration has long enriched the United States.
“We have had these concerns since the Irish, Italians and Poles were coming to Boston and New York,” Obama said of worries about new immigrants.
Obama also taped interviews with Univision and Telemundo that will air later Tuesday. Audience members quizzed Obama on why his executive order didn’t go further -- it applies to people who are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
He said a "legal constraint on our authority" prevented the administration from extending the action to the parents of so-called Dreamers, children who are allowed by a previous order to stay in the U.S.
Across the street from the event, a number of protestors yelled and held signs, including one that read “Illegal, Take His Pen.”
Nashville, Obama noted, has a growing immigration population from countries including Somalia, Nepal and Bangladesh. It also has the largest Kurdish community in the U.S., Obama said.