November 25th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
10 months ago

As Obama makes turn to immigration, protests that he's not doing enough

San Francisco (CNN) - Seeking to move his domestic agenda away from the disappointments of health care reform, President Obama made another pitch for an immigration overhaul Monday, calling on lawmakers to restart an effort that stalled over the summer.

But even as he made his pitch at a recreation center serving mainly Chinese-Americans in San Francisco, Obama was loudly interrupted by a group who says the President's not doing enough to end deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Ju Hong, a 24-year-old student at San Francisco State, told Obama his family couldn't see each other because of the nation's immigration laws - and that Obama wasn't doing enough by himself to change the rules.

"You have the power to stop deportation," Ju said as a chant of "stop deportation" grew behind where the President was standing.

Later, Ju told reporters he was "disappointed" in the blame the President placed on Republicans, instead saying Obama could help reunite his family by executive order.

Obama, who told Secret Service agents to allow the protesters to remain inside the event area, took sharp aim at Congressional Republicans during his remarks for what he said was an unwillingness to "catch up with the rest of the country" on immigration changes.

After waving off the Secret Service, Obama said, "I respect the passion of these young people because they feel deeply about the concerns for their families.

"Now what you need to know, when I'm speaking as President of the United States and I come to this community. If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so."

"But we're also a nation of laws. That's part of our tradition," Obama continued.

"And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I'm proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. But it won't be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done."

Obama rebutted the protesters' claims he could end deportation alone, saying he needed Congress on board to fully repair a flawed system. In 2012, Obama did end deportations for certain young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents.

Immigration reform is "within our grasp, if we can convince folks in Washington to just do what needs to be done," Obama said, pointing to a measure passed by the Senate earlier this year that garnered bipartisan support.

That Senate measure, passed by a large majority in June, included an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that hinged upon strict new border security provisions. The bill, the work of a Senate gang of four Democrats and four Republicans, earned strong backing from the White House but wasn't taken up in the House, where some conservatives allege the citizenship clause amounts to amnesty for immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Republican leaders in the House have said they'll take up individual immigration measures instead of the comprehensive legislation the White House says it prefers. Obama last week told a group of business chiefs he would be open to some piecemeal measures, as long as they change the aspects of the nation's immigration system that he's pushing for.

"It's not smart," Obama said of the current laws. "It's not fair. It doesn't make sense. And we have kicked this can down the road long enough."

In political terms, immigration reform is generally regarded as an issue that can help bolster a candidate or party among the growing U.S. Latino population; Republicans' interest in the issue of late is seen as a response to the GOP's disastrous showing among Latinos in the 2012 presidential election.

But in areas of the West Coast like San Francisco and Seattle, Asian Americans form a larger demographic bloc. The site of Obama's speech Monday, the Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center, serves the city's historic Chinatown - the oldest such concentration of Chinese immigrants in North America. The building is named for a flight attendant who lost her life on 9/11.

Comprehensive immigration reform would be a major legislative win for the president, who has struggled to see his top agenda items passed by a divided legislature. The signature law of his first term, the Affordable Care Act, passed on party lines when the House of Representatives was still controlled by Democrats. Today that law is mired in technological problems with its exchange website, HealthCare.gov, as well as a constant barrage of criticism from Republicans on its policy details.

The President's immigration message came amid a three-day fundraising blitz for Obama, which took him to Seattle on Sunday, San Francisco on Monday and Los Angeles on Tuesday. Immigration reform is widely popular among Democrats, as well as some of Obama's Silicon Valley donors, who have long lamented federal rules that bar them from hiring top talent trained in the United States but without the ability to work here. To underscore that point, the President was introduced Monday by Geetha Vallabhaneni, who after waiting twelve years for a green card went on to found Luminix, a software firm.


Filed under: California • Immigration • President Obama
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. cbp

    He seemed to handle the situation very well, He did not let the heckling stop him from speaking.

    The Republican Congress has had many opportunities to take the nation forward. Instead they have said no to most ideas. They do not seem to be able to say yea to new ideas. Meanwhile, they have set the House calendar and they will be in session very few days. Work is not in their vocabulary.The President does lay blame and unfortunately, the REpublicans have made themselves wide open to the blame.. Positive action on their part would be most welcome.

    November 25, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  2. John in Colorado

    Laws passed by Congress are much more sustainable than executive orders. The latter can be more easily challenged in the courts. Also the next President can undo executive orders but cannot so easily ignore the Law.

    November 25, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  3. john

    Obama "We are a nation of laws'. When has that ever stopped him?????

    November 25, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  4. Will

    "When our forefathers entered the Country after WWII, they were immediately processed in." <-What??

    November 25, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  5. cneder

    Heckled??? NetanYahu just made Owebama look like a little community organizer again by giving him a lecture on world peace.

    November 25, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  6. cneder

    These people should know better than to interrupt the community organizer while he's reading Mr. Teleprompter.

    November 25, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  7. Rob

    he completely ignored an American citizen being held by Iran, yeah he cares about you

    November 25, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  8. sonnie3

    I bet this was a staged event for publicity purposes. Otherwise security would have ousted the one that were out of line at the presentation.

    November 25, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  9. FidyCents

    The list of hecklers is growing a 1000 fold. Just continue to look at the ACA debacle.

    November 25, 2013 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  10. nomad2003

    Obama would pick and choose what parts of any imigration bill he wants...

    That is the problem with current laws... He picks and chooses which to enforce and which ot not.

    Once a liar always a liar and can not be trusted.

    November 25, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  11. josie

    The worst president ever nobody respects him as a lider ,I guess he is not.

    November 26, 2013 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  12. Homer

    Isn't it interesting that the Secret Service is normally charged with removing dissenters? Voice your disapproval and go to jail?

    November 26, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  13. MalibuChick

    Once again our selfish president decides to fly when it is convenient for him...like in LA right before the thanksgiving holiday when us "regular" people have to get to the airport and make our flights. Of course those of us "regular people" cannot close the streets for our travels....no we get to sit in traffic and risk missing our flights because he wants to have dinner with some billionaires. So glad to kow you are in touch with the "regular" people!

    November 26, 2013 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  14. Vikachi

    What about U.S.cits.10.000.000 out of work right now.1 in 5 in poverty.1985 pay wadges.we can go around da world n fight n fix? n spend $trillion $ but cant defend 10.000.000 feet of our own border.then move to fix imigration.how bout amnisty to da 1.000.000 n prison for pot n petty crimes.no thay want us inindated so we ll have to work for $2.oo HR.or maybe fight 2 da death for jobs.1.000.000 grads not working.wonder how many people here on work visas are on unimployment?millions? i no native Americans who cant get work on there own res.cus thay dont speek spanish?? da ##s dont ad up.thay ad down.were goin down people.were not Rep.n Dem.thay are.

    November 26, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  15. Robin Jones

    "we have kicked this can down the road long enough", says the Can-Kicker In Chief.

    November 26, 2013 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  16. Alex

    How about we follow the laws and deport these people. Yes deporting is still an option

    November 26, 2013 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  17. REDROBE

    If you want to look at your children and think...wow someday you can be on disability or we can celebrate a vote to shave off a little more of those that 'have' so you can get a bump in some social program and maybe, if you really have high hopes for your kids, you will be the one that lands a rock on the oppressive police when those social programs run out....then keep voting democrat!

    November 26, 2013 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  18. Jod

    Why does Obama always get heckled from the left? Because conservatives have class. Remember that.

    November 26, 2013 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  19. Josh

    The student shouting is a S . Korean citizen here to study. You want a to be a U.S then earn it. This kid should be great full to be here for school. Obey the laws to come here. No amnesty for illegals.

    November 26, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  20. Evan

    Sure, because he (or his family) came to this country illegally, they deserve the rights that legal immigrants and citiz a have, sounds like a good idea? No.
    I myself am an immigrant, I waited 12 years for my visa application to get approved, and another 5 years for my citizenship....you're telling me I could have done all that within a few days, if I can just enter the country and stay here illegally?

    November 26, 2013 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  21. SixDegrees

    Why should I believe anything this President says anymore?

    November 26, 2013 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  22. justino

    anything he says is a lie

    November 26, 2013 04:03 am at 4:03 am |
  23. John J Poramo

    Where does this idiocracy end, my spouse worked for years in military support groups and the get shot down by
    hecklers on amnesty, give them airplane amnesty back to their own country. We were born in the United States,

    November 26, 2013 05:10 am at 5:10 am |
  24. Steve

    No sympathy for Ju. Either have your family go through the legal process or return to China where the family can reunite. Solely his decision

    November 26, 2013 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  25. Jerry

    It is about time people took their blinders off and realized what a phony Obama and most Democrats are! I guess there might be hope, AFTER ALL! The "Clueless One" loves to play the blame game. The $$$ never stops with HIM.

    November 26, 2013 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
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