Obama hits 'mean' campaign rhetoric in rebuke of Trump

Obama: Anyone can fire off a tweet, criticize
Obama: Anyone can fire off a tweet, criticize

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Obama: Anyone can fire off a tweet, criticize 01:30

Story highlights

  • "The talk around these issues is cut deeper than in years past," Obama said
  • Obama bemoaned controversial language about immigrants

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama on Thursday night delivered an unmistakable -- though unnamed -- rebuke of Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric, claiming the GOP candidate had injected new "ugliness" into the debate over immigration.

"It is possible to insist on a lawful and orderly system while still seeing students and their hard-working parents not as criminals, not as rapists, but as families who came here for the same reasons that all immigrants came here: to work, and to learn and to build a better life," Obama said, recalling the descriptions of undocumented Mexican immigrants that Trump used during his campaign announcement more than a year ago.
    In a bitter election season, "the talk around these issues is cut deeper than in years past," Obama said. "It's a little more personal. A little meaner. A little uglier."
    Obama was speaking in Washington at a gala dinner for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, acting as a warmup for Hillary Clinton, who spoke afterward. Earlier, the White House said that no formal meeting was planned between the two Democrats, but that it was possible they would encounter each other backstage.
    During his remarks, Obama bemoaned controversial language about immigrants emanating from the campaign trail, saying it was destined to alienate voters.
    "There are a lot of folks who have this notion of what the real America looks like. And somehow it only includes a few of us," he said. "But who's going to decide who the real America is? Who's to determine that in this nation of immigrants, in a nation where unless you are a Native American, you came here from someplace else, that you have a greater claim than anybody here. So we can't let that brand of politics win."
    The President's immigration agenda has largely been stalled by Republicans in Congress, who have resisted attempts at passing a comprehensive reform package. Obama worked to enact unilateral changes to the system, but much of his efforts have been blocked in court.
    Obama said his successor will require support from lawmakers to advance meaningful immigration reform, "no matter how tough she is."