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Obama challenges 2016 candidates on immigration

26 february 2015, 12:49

 US President Barack Obama trained his sights on Republicans and 2016 presidential hopefuls Wednesday, encouraging voters to demand they support immigration reform, AFP reports.

Visiting the battleground state of Florida, Obama appealed directly to its large Hispanic community, which overwhelmingly backs measures to grant amnesty to millions of undocumented migrants.

"For the next set presidential candidates," he told a televised town hall meeting, "when they start asking for votes, the first question should be, 'are you really going to deport 11 million people? If not, what's your plan?.'"

Obama said that while he could bypass Congress with executive actions granting amnesty to up to five million people, Congress would need to pass laws to make the changes permanent.

"We've got to pass a bill. The pressure's got to continue to stay on Congress. The pressure's got to continue to stay on the Republican Party that is blocking comprehensive immigration reform," Obama said.

Republicans remain broadly opposed to immigration reform, but a number of leading figures in the race to 2016, including ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush, have argued immigrants should not be condemned for seeking a better life.

During Wednesday's meeting Obama also tried to assuage fears that his executive actions could be reversed in the courts or by individual immigration agents, leaving those who came forward exposed.

"Until we pass a law through Congress, the executive actions we've taken are not going to be permanent; they are temporary," he said.

He vowed to crack down on any border control agent or immigration official who ignored policy.

A Texas court recently put a large section of Obama's executive actions on hold.

His administration has vowed to appeal the decision.

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