EL PASO, Texas – In search of Hispanic votes and a long-shot immigration overhaul, President Obama on Tuesday stood at the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time since winning the White House and declared it more secure than ever. He mocked Republican lawmakers for blocking immigration over border security alone, saying they won’t be happy until they get a moat with alligators along the border.

“They’ll never be satisfied,” he said.

Stymied by both chambers of Congress, the president ditched lawmakers in favor of voters who might pressure them, making an appeal to the public on a hot and dusty day far outside Washington. He told a friendly El Paso crowd that it’s up to them to tell Congress to pass legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.

The approach also allowed the president to make clear that it’s Republicans — not him — standing in the way of immigration legislation. As his re-election campaign approaches it’s a message he wants broadcast loud and clear to Latino voters who don’t like his administration’s heavy deportations and feel he never made good on his promise to prioritize immigration legislation during his first year in office.

“I am asking you to add your voices to this,” Obama said. “We need Washington to know that there is a movement for reform gathering strength from coast to coast. That’s how we’ll get this done.”

Countering Republican calls to focus on border security before moving to a comprehensive overhaul, Obama boasted of increasing Border Patrol agents, nearing completion of a border fence and screening more cargo, among other steps.

The president wasn’t able to get immigration legislation through Congress last year that would have provided a route to legal status for college students and others who were brought to the country as children. The so-called DREAM Act passed the House, then controlled by Democrats, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

The Senate is now even more heavily Republican, and Republicans control the House. Nonetheless, Senate Democrats plan to reintroduce the DREAM Act today, with their counterparts in the House following suit.