On Tuesday evening, Telemundo’s José Díaz-Balart interviewed President Barack Obama for “Noticiero Telemundo” touching on many difficult subjects, such as the Senate Intelligence Report, and mainly Immigration issues like the extent of the President’s authority, the what-ifs of having acted sooner, and the future of these necessary reforms. As usual, Telemundo’s Balart used his many bicultural and bilingual skills to dig deep for relevant information, and even got Obama to wish us a merry Christmas in Spanish!

José Díaz-Balart: Let's talk about the Senate Intelligence Report, right off the bat. Were Senate Democrats wrong to release this report given the intelligence community's assessment that there may be violence or even attacks-- against Americans overseas?

President Barack Obama: Well, I don't think there was ever gonna be a perfect time to release this report.  But my position consistently was that-- after having conducted this report, it was important to go ahead and release it.  One of the things that sets us apart from other countries is when we make mistakes, we admit them.

And-- I think that, as I said in my written statement-- there are a lot of folks who work very hard after 9/11 to keep us safe-- during a very hazardous situation and a time when people were unsure of what was taking place.  But what was also true is, is that we took some steps that were contrary to who we are, contrary to our values.  As some of the-- tactics-- that were-- written about in the Senate Intelligence Report-- were brutal.

And-- as I've said before, constituted torture in my mind.  And that's not who we are.  And so-- although I am concerned about-- potential ramifications overseas, and we've taken precautionary steps-- to try to mitigate-- any additional risks-- I think it-- it was important for us to-- release this so that we can-- account for it, so that people understand precisely why I banned these practices as one of the first acts I took when I came into office.  And-- hopefully make sure that we don't make those mistakes again.

JDB: Former President Bush called the C.I.A. interrogators patriots, his former vice president said they should be decorated and not criticized.  How do you see what-- how would you describe these men and women?

PBO: Well-- look, they're-- they're different individuals in the Senate Report engaging in different kinds of activities.  I think overall, the men and women at the C.I.A. do a really tough job and they do it really well.  And that was true then and it's true today.  But in the aftermath of 9/11, I mean, in the midst of-- a national trauma, and uncertainty as to whether these attacks were gonna repeat themselves-- you know, what's clear is that-- the C.I.A. set up something very fast without a lot of forethought to what the ramifications might be.

That-- the lines of accountability that needed to be set up weren't always in place.  And that some of these techniques that were described were not only wrong, but also counterproductive-- because we know that-- you know, often times, when somebody is being subjected to these kinds of-- techniques, that they're willing to say anything in order to-- alleviate-- you know, the pain and the stress that they're feeling.  And, you know, we've got better ways of doing things.

And so, you know, I-- I think it's important for us not to paint any broad brush-- about all the incredible dedicated professionals-- in our intelligence community-- based on-- some actions that I think were-- really-- contrary to who we are.  But I think it was also important for us to face up to the fact that when countries are threatened, oftentimes they act rationally in ways that in retrospect-- were-- were wrong.

And-- we need to acknowledge that in part to build in place systems so that-- if, heaven forbid, we find ourselves under the kinds of direct threats that-- you know, have occurred in the past-- that we recognize the dangers-- ahead of time and-- and do better.

JDB: The report says that the president and Congress many times is unaware of the techniques being used or even the magnitude of what was being done there.  Are you concerned that maybe today the C.I.A. could be doing something that you're unaware of?

PBO: Well-- no.  Because I-- I've been very explicit about-- how our intelligence gathering needs to conduct itself, and-- explicitly prohibited these kinds of techniques.  And so anybody who was-- doing the kinds of things that are described in the report would not simply be-- keeping something from me, they would be directly violating-- the orders that I've-- issued as president and commander in chief.

JDB: So if you were president, commander in chief at 9/11, you see no scenario where you would've agreed-- to accept some of the things that are (UNINTEL PHRASE)?

PBO: You know, I'm not gonna engage in those hypotheticals.  What I've said in the past, and what-- what I will repeat is that-- nobody can fully understand what it was like to be responsible for the safety and security of the American people in the aftermath of the worst attack-- on our national soil.

And you know, I think that-- s-- there are-- there are those who when things are tough and dangerous, demand to do something, and then-- when things seem safer-- may not recall the kinds of panic and fear-- and concern that pe-- that the public as a whole had.  But-- but that does not excuse all of us from recognizing our responsibilities to look squarely at-- what happened.  And to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

And-- you know, not only did I order that we don't engage in these practices in the future, I also-- am pretty diligent about trying to make sure that-- you know, we've created the kinds of accountability systems inside-- our intelligence agencies-- that allows me to keep track and my national security advisor to keep track of what we're doin'.

JDB: Let's talk-- immigration, which is why you're here in Nashville today.  Over and over again, when I've had the opportunity to chat with you, you've said, "I'm not king, I'm president of the United States."  And you said--

PBO: Still not.

JDB: (LAUGH) I understand that.

PBO: Yeah--

JDB: But you said you didn't have the authority to expand, for example, mitigation of deportations.  Removing the issue of politics aside, what legally changed?

PBO: Well, you know-- what-- I think changed is that having done what we did with DACA, with the DREAM kids, my argument was not that we did not have some additional authority, my argument was that I did not have the authority to simply not deport.  As you'll recall, oftentimes that was the demand that was made on me.

And there's gonna be continuing-- even after the actions I take, some deportations.  We're gonna deport criminals.  We're gonna deport felons.  We're gonna prioritize our resources.  And at the border, if people come here illegally, then we are still going to remove them.  There's still gonna be a focus on people who have just got-- gotten in.

And I think it's important for all your viewers to understand that the new executive actions we've taken apply to people who've been here for five years and who-- have U.S. children or children who are legal permanent residents.  In that case, you can register, and you can be assured you won't be deported.

More broadly, we are gonna make sure that families, people who are, you know, working and-- and-- responsible in their communities, are not prioritized for deportation.  So the likelihood of their deportation's gonna be much lower.  But at the border regions, as well as-- when it comes to criminals, we're still gonna be-- you know, making sure that we enforce those laws.

PBO: But what had happened was throughout this last year-and-a-half, we saw a convergence of Democrat, Republican, Independent voices saying this is the right thing to do.  We got a good Senate bill.  All we needed was a vote in the House.  I gave Speaker Boehner a year-and-a-half to try to get that passed.  I think personally he wanted to do it.  He couldn't get his caucus to go along.  And at that point, we had essentially exhausted-- the possibilities in this Congress of getting something done.  But I hope that-- that the next Congress--

JDB: Political side?  The-- the legal side, right?  There's the political side and then there's the authority side?

PBO: Well, the authority side, as I said-- the-- we always knew that we could reprioritize some of our enforcement powers, not to simply eliminate deportations.  That would be something that only Congress could do.  But what we could do is change, given the limited resources we have, who and-- who we're going after and where our resources are deployed.

JDB: And-- and let's talk a little bit about-- the future.  Are you actively looking into the possibility of further executive actions that could maybe-- help the people that did not qualify this time in the near future?

PBO: You know, the-- I-- I asked the Office of Legal Counsel to give me their best ruling on how much legal authority I had.  And we stretched as far as we could.  You know, my hope is that this becomes a spurred to action by Congress.  If not, it's certainly gonna be a conversation-- going into the next presidential election and the next-- set of congressional elections.

And-- I think there are a lot-- not just Democrats but-- thoughtful Republicans out there who understand that they wanna be on the side of history that welcomes people who are already here, who stand to-- make-- a tremendous contribution to our society.  And that we are not going to continue a process in which we hypocritically claim that-- these folks have no path to-- to get legal, at the same time as we know that they're working in our restaurants, working in-- our fields, picking-- fruit, working in-- our hotels where we stay-- cleaning up-- our-- our hotel rooms.  I think the majority of Americans want strong borders.  But they also recognize people who've been here for a while, they deserve a chance to get outta the shadows and be held accountable by paying taxes.

JDB: Have you thought about-- or what would you say to the people, the hundreds of thousands of people, that-- would not have had their families separated had you acted earlier?  Hundreds of thousands--

PBO: Well, you know what, now, what you're getting into is the nature of being president, which is-- I also think about the millions of people who got sick before I got health care passed.  I think about, all the time-- the work that is left undone.  But my job is not to-- look backwards.  We have taken a step that stands to benefit 4 million people, to give them the capacity to get out of the shadows and to move forward.  And we still have the possibility of helping a lot more people if we get legislation passed.

JDB: Let's talk about fear for a minute.  Fear that millions of people living in the United States without documents could feel fear getting picked up and being deported.  The fear of many people to register with the federal government when there are 20 states that are suing the President of the United States of America, and when Congress-- Congressman-- Yoho-- passed a bill-- that would deport DREAMers.  How do you mitigate fear when there's a three-year period for these 5 million people and people don't see a very rosy picture?

PBO: Well, actually, you know, number one, they should take the example of their kids.  Because you think about all those D.A.C.A. kids who signed up, understanding that was temporary, but they proclaimed, "We are Americans.  We need to be seen and heard and we wanna make a contribution to this society."

They're all signed up and-- and I have a great deal of confidence that they're gonna end up making those contributions to this society.  As I was saying in the town hall earlier-- we need now to register people who are qualified.  And if they register, they're paying taxes.  They are goin' through a criminal background check.  The American people believe that if you've done things the right way, then you shouldn't be punished for it.

You're not gonna see Democrats or Republicans who suggest that we're gonna treat worse the people who did the right thing-- compared to those folks who-- who don't register, don't go through a criminal background check, and haven't been paying their taxes.  So-- if anything, it's more likely that those who go through this process are probably going to be in a better position to take advantage of the legislation that I believe will ultimately be passed because it's the right thing to do and it's what the American people think should be done.

JDB: Mr. President-- take you to Mexico-- the 26th of September; 43 college students who were picked up by orders of a mayor of the city, handed over to police that then handed 'em over to narco-killers that essentially burned them to death.  Is it time-- because this is not the first—case of violation of human rights we've seen recently in Mexico.  Is it time to reconsider-- aid to Mexico, based on human rights?

PBO: Well, I think that-- the federal government-- and I know President Pena Nieto-- who I spoke to recently when I was in Australia with him-- recognizes the outrageous-- tragedy that this represents.  And, you know, this is a chronic problem of narco-traffickers, in some cases, taking over entire towns or entire regions.

JDB: Government officials in cahoots?

PBO: Oftentimes-- you know, the corruption of-- of the enormous amounts of money that are involved in-- in the drug trade.  So this will be investigated.  We've offered assistance in tracking down exactly what happened; our forensic capabilities, our-- capacity to-- to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

But-- m-- Mexico's a partner-- for us and we've gotta make sure that we strengthen the criminal justice system, the investigative capacities-- not just at the federal level.  But I think working with Mexico to see if we can push those down to the g-- governor's level and municipal levels.  Because this does affect us.  You know, Mexico is-- is our friend and our neighbor.  We want them to thrive.  Gruesome-- you know, reports of the-- of the sort you just described-- you know, have no place in-- in civilized society.

JDB: The aid conditioned to human rights?

PBO: I think-- the best thing we can do is to be a good partner and to build on the progress that's been made-- in doin' things the right way

JDB: Always a pleasure.

PBO: Okay, Feliz Navidad--

JDB: Gracias.

PBO: Thank you.