November 25th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
9 years 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,, 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. Rick

    I'm for a legal path to citizenship for immigrants in this country and immigration reform in general, but after the debacle, I can't trust this government to implement it properly. Yes, both Democrats and Republicans would botch it.

    November 26, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  2. Anonymous

    How about enforcing the laws currently on the books. Ju Young you can see your family anytime, just pack your bags and go back to your country and take some illegals with you.

    November 26, 2013 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  3. oldsarg

    Obama can point all day at everyone else but the world and Nation sees through the liar e has proven himself to be. Americans are now feeling the pain of his overbearing government in higher living expenses, more people on government assistance, our health care system being destroyed, families insurance protection being cancelled. No, Obama was not and is not good for this Nation. Obama is a hurt from which we are all now suffering.

    November 26, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  4. Pamela

    Stupid immigration reform should be defeated. We do not accept amnesty for illegal. I'm sure more than 80% Americans do not accept. They want immigration law to be enforced. We do not need more unskilled, poor people. There are 48 millions of Hispanic in this country because of Reagan's Amnesty. Send them back to their country. They will reunite to their family in their homeland. Do not blame us, we do not invite you to come here as illegally.

    November 26, 2013 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  5. paul reynolds

    The Republicons only have ONE "Magic Solution" for Everything!!

    " Continue and Extend even MORE record Tax Cuts and Profits for Insurers, Banks, Defense Contractors and Corporations"!!!

    November 26, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  6. Jim

    Obama continues to "beat the drum" to legalize illegal aliens so he can then push for them to become additional dependents of the Democratic Party.

    November 26, 2013 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  7. 77885893

    Obama.....the laughing stock of the world. What an embarrassment to all Americans

    November 26, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  8. JC

    "We are a nation of laws" which means just that; why didn't this leader stand and say that according to those laws the people are here illegally and are breaking that law. Typical politician with no backbone to enforce the laws on the books.

    November 26, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  9. Streets marts

    Yet again, our "great leader" bad mouthing the very team that he needs to negotiate right after his extended team (the senate) changes the rules in congress slapping every republican in the face. I have never seen such a poor example of leadership. My way or the highway and when I don't perform, it's somebody else's fault, is the legacy of this president. We desperately need a CHANGE.

    November 26, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  10. notfooled2

    Do suppose the guy was a plant, so B0 could explain why he hasn't done something?

    November 26, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
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