Obama warns U.S. not to "demagogue" immigration

WASHINGTON Sat Jul 31, 2010 4:36pm EDT

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington July 19, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington July 19, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned U.S. leaders not to use the divisive issue of illegal immigration as a way to gain power and name recognition in an interview with CBS television released on Saturday.

Fresh from a court victory that blocked provisions of a tough Arizona immigration law that Obama opposed, the president warned politicians not to "demagogue" the topic and said his administration wanted to work with Arizona on the issue.

Earlier this week a judge blocked key parts of the border state's tough new immigration law hours before it was to take effect, handing a victory to Obama's administration, which is trying to take control of the issue.

One blocked provision would have required police officers to determine the immigration status of a person detained or arrested if an officer believed the individual was not in the country legally.

The state is appealing the court's ruling.

"We want to work with Arizona. I understand the frustration of people in Arizona. But what we can't do is demagogue the issue," Obama said in an interview with CBS, according to excerpts released by the network.

"And what we can't do is allow a patchwork of 50 different states, or cities or localities, where anybody who wants to make a name for themselves suddenly says, 'I'm going to be anti-immigrant and I'm going try to see if I can solve the problem ourself.' This is a national problem," Obama said.

Immigration is a flashpoint between Republicans and Democrats ahead of November elections, which could change the balance of power in the U.S. Congress. Attempts to overhaul the U.S. immigration system have failed previously, most recently in 2007 when Republicans torpedoed reforms pushed by George W. Bush, then the Republican president.

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