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. Tampa Tim

    All Boehner has to do is allow the house to vote on the senate bipartisan bill, and the president will sign it.

    November 25, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. ladies first

    Imigration reform should reflect American Civil Liberty If you want to be in America follow the rules period. A rule of thought people born here havent had their basic needs met that should be the morning coffee that wakes your world of reality up!

    November 25, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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
    The President cannot avail himself of his power of Executive Order everytime the House blocks a vote on a bill.
    Executive Orders should be used and seen as the very last of resorts when all other methods of friendly persuasion or coercion have been exerted.
    Perhaps Mr. Ju should address himself to Orange-glo, the Crier of the House, and ask him to allow a vote on the President's proposal.

    November 25, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  4. jrm03063

    Not sure what Obama is supposed to do – it's the House that won't pass any legislation except stuff that's DOA in the Senate.

    November 25, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  5. George

    Ya lets give criminals amnesty that sounds like a good idea. Let also allow the president that gave us the great health care reform the country is experiencing a shot at ruining immigration also.

    November 25, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. Logictox

    "Seeking to move his domestic agenda away from the disappointments of health care reform"

    Need I say more!

    November 25, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. anonymous

    So nice to see the far looney left heckle the really far left looney left. too funny!

    November 25, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  8. Tampa Tim

    Ask Boehner how easy it was to sign up for Obamacare. It's so easy, even a republican can do it.

    November 25, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  9. Vence

    It is disappointing. He could have fixed 5 years ago. He didn't do anything!!!

    November 25, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  10. Katz

    He cant get healthcare reform correct. What makes him think his stand on immigration reform will work.

    November 25, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. Tampa Tim

    In FL, we elect criminals to the House of Representatives and the governorship. I am not as concerned about alleged criminals that the baggers refer to in immigration reform.

    November 25, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  12. penguin

    When our forefathers entered the Country after WWII, they were immediately processed in. We have many people here illegally merely because we don't process them in. In this day of computers and instant background checks, there's no reason one should have to wait more than a few days to determine whether they'll be allowed in.

    November 25, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Tampa Tim

    Yet the 14 states with their own exchanges will provide the number to make ACA successful. Red states will come along once they vote out their governors who put party above country and state.

    November 25, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  14. ChrisM

    You foolish republicans. You could do something good for America and all that has to be done in the House is for Boehner to allow a vote on the Senate bill. But noooooooooo, you could not have that now, could you

    November 25, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  15. Ceratisa

    So, basically Obama's being protested because he isn't doing enough to defy the law and stop deporting illegal aliens?

    November 25, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  16. Forrest

    Obama "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."

    What a surprise. President Obama never misses a chance to point across the aisle and lay blame.

    November 25, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  17. Jules

    Guess what, President Obama is not the supreme ruler despite what you have heard from the GOP. This takes the House to take up the Senate bill or pass their own and enter into conference with the Senate, which, by the way, Boehner said he wouldn't do.

    November 25, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  18. Active Duty Soldier

    Stop shouting and protesting and get your butts to the polls. These random people hiding in the crowds waiting to yell for a cause need to get to the polls and make a change instead of trying to make the local news channel for disrupting national figures and looking like crazy people.. I believe in change, but do it when no ones looking instead of always wanting to be seen on tv. The most powerful message is having masses support you when u dont have a hidden agenda that involves you getting rich or famous.

    November 25, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  19. Data Driven


    "What a surprise. President Obama never misses a chance to point across the aisle and lay blame."

    Well, it's where the blame belongs.

    November 25, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  20. Beans

    The trifecta.....


    Strike 3 for the Dems.

    November 25, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  21. John

    If you are not a citizen. You have to go back to your homeland and apply to become a citizen like everyone else. Why is this hard to understand?

    November 25, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  22. Tampa Tim

    Forrest – Ever know of any clueless republican who did not take cheap shots and lie about our president?

    November 25, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  23. Silence DoGood

    Conservatives should remember that no matter what names they call Obama, there are those that feels he does not go far enough on some issues! He is not as extreme as they paint him. He is trying to balance many things.

    It cracks me up and makes me sad a the intelligence of the average voter when Tea-Hats call up percentages of those the disagree with Obama. They often include those that want him to be more progressive. Conservative myth #54875.

    November 25, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  24. Abbey

    Any event that Obama holds is for his base only. Today he was caught off guard and look again like a lame duck president.

    November 25, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  25. American Worker

    The President believes that we're a nation of Laws and a Democracy.

    Hmm... Strange that he is not being impartial in enforcing the law and regulations. And not being inclusive in the Democratic processes that Harry Reid is trampling all over.

    November 25, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
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