President Barack Obama defended his decision to use executive authority to enact changes to the U.S. immigration system during an exclusive interview with "This Week," challenging Republican Speaker John Boehner to "pass a bill" if he was not satisfied with the president's unilateral actions.
"Congress has a responsibility to deal with these issues and there are some things that I can't do on my own," the president told ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview in Las Vegas on Friday. "What I do have is the legal authority to try to make the system better. Given the resource constraints that we have, we have to prioritize."
During a primetime address on Thursday from the White House, the president - expressing frustration over a lack of Congressional action - announced he would be employing executive action to circumvent Congress and offer temporary legal status to approximately five million undocumented immigrants, among other actions.
During the interview with Stephanopoulos, the president pushed back against the argument made by some of his detractors that he is taking action that he previously said he did not have the authority to take.
"What is absolutely true is that we couldn't solve the entire problem and still can't solve the entire problem," Obama said. "But what we can do is to prioritize felons, criminals, recent arrivals, folks who are coming right at the border and acknowledge that if somebody's been here for over five years - they may have an American child or a legal permanent resident child - it doesn't make sense for us to prioritize them when we know that we need more resources."
"If you look, every president - Democrat and Republican - over decades has done the same thing as I mentioned in my remarks," he added. "George H. W. Bush, about 40 percent of the undocumented persons at the time were provided a similar kind of relief as a consequence of executive action."
When asked about using executive action, the president said his view on the issue has not changed.
"If you look - the history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a longshot," Obama said. "The difference is the response of Congress, and specifically the response of some of the Republicans. But if you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I've actually been very restrained, and I've been very restrained with respect to immigration. I bent over backwards and will continue to do everything I can to get Congress to work because that's my preference."