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. Fish

    One thing I've noticed about the President, he loves leaving loose ends to every issue, nothing is ever completed it's as if he leaves an exit just in case. I have never experienced any President leave so many unaddressed issues. We have Syria, Iran, ACA, not mentioning the trumped up issues of the Goofy right. I simply yearn for the days of normal government again when we know what to expect!!!

    November 25, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. Gonzales M in New Mexico

    Im a hispanic that lives in New Mexico and my familys been in the area for a long long time, that being said I support the GOP when it comes to Immigration. People forget that theirs hispanic Americans thave have zero ties outside of the nation and our views reflect what the average American does, not every latino wants open borders or the illegals to become u.s citizens.

    November 25, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  3. Tigas

    What about all the immigrants that have gone through the proper and legal process?

    November 25, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  4. Aaron

    How do you think Obama wants people to apply for citizenship, a website?

    November 25, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  5. US VET

    I believe the individuals that came to this country illegally should be deported never to be allowed back into US borders therefore people that follow laws of this country and are granted access should be allowed.

    November 25, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. Tigas

    This is the same Fundraiser-In-Chief who closed off the National Mall on DC to US citizens and forced US veterans away from their memorials while illegal immigrants were allowed to protest against US Law. Obama is more than willing to sell out US citizens.

    November 25, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  7. bringupcharges

    Laws were set up by our fore fathers concerning immigration,the border patrol was set up to protect our safety and uphold our immigration laws,both the border patrol and government are guilty of dereliction of duty. What if a soldier on duty of a base let someine slip through,that is what he would be charged with.

    November 25, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  8. twelvecarpileup

    I'm all in support of immigration reform in the US, being of Chinese decent. However, the hecklers did more to harm immigration reform then they could probably imagine.

    Instead of the story being about the President pushing immigration reform, the story is now about heckler's, which gives ammunition to opponents of immigration reform. Congrats, you're immaturity has hurt your cause. .

    November 25, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  9. RS

    "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 "

    He could go back to China and get an education there.

    November 25, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  10. tony_russel

    Why should we let people stay in this country illegally when there are people lined up to do it legally?

    November 25, 2013 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  11. barbara

    If you're here illegally, it's too darn bad if you can't see your family! How about this government start serving the taxpayers who pay their salary instead of try to gain political dominance by illegally granting people amnesty in this country.... basically that is what this immigration reform is all about. How about we sue the government for not enforcing its own laws and for not doing the will of the people.

    November 25, 2013 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  12. John Q

    Stop deporting ppl here illegally? Gee. Why would we do that?

    November 25, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  13. John Q

    This is a nation of laws. If you are here illegally. Too bad.

    November 25, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  14. McBob79

    At this point does anyone really trust Obama to get involved in new legislation? Has he handled anything well? Seriously, what accomplishments can you point to? What has gone well? Obamacare is a disaster, Afghan, Iraq are disasters, the economy is a disaster, record debt, deficit, record numbers on food stamps, lowest work force participation since 1980. Tell me please, what has gone well? One thing!

    November 25, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  15. ladies first

    Realisticly people are going to have to adjust to the law of the land and if they cant they should reconsider going back to their homeland Happy Safe Holidays to all God Bless.

    November 25, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  16. rrock

    We have millions here illegally competing for jobs with legal citizens. This drives legals to the welfare rolls because their wages are undercut by illegals.

    Reagan had an amnesty and we just wound up with another 20 million here illegally. Why should we reward people for violating our laws.

    November 25, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  17. Amit patel

    We need to work together to pass immigration reform for young children also parents suffer separation family live United States for many years reson needs pass immragation reform because we can not mass up young teenager and children future plan mass broken heart for family separation

    November 25, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  18. Nick

    As a Dem, i say keep deporting them. They dont pay into the tax system yet they get financial support and have benefits that american citizens cant get or afford. There are too many non-contributing illegal's in this country. If theyre going to stay they need to contribute like everyone else.

    November 25, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  19. John

    Let's cancel passports, visas, consulates.... There is no reason to have it snore. All illegals will be able to be legal. Viva anarchy!

    November 25, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  20. Tim

    Thats just what I want, a bunch of people who broke the law entering our country to be granred citizenship. How about a one way ticket to jail?

    November 25, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  21. MDL

    I saw this on CNN News TV. It was a staged event. The heckler was invited to the speech.

    November 25, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  22. bob

    Always someone else to blame, He's never admitted any of his many blunders.

    November 25, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  23. sickofillegals

    No actual hard working legal americans want anymore illegal immigrants being allowed to stay here. Obama made a mistake with the dream act and him saying we should just let them stay after all our laws they broke, gimme a freaking break. If you can't follow simple laws on how enter a country exactly how are they going to follow any of americas other laws?

    November 25, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  24. kaneda

    So they want to stop deportation when they are here illegaly?

    November 25, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  25. longfisch

    The President can not just decide which part of a law we will and will not enforce, the law is the law, there is no way to get around it. Once congress has passed it, and our President has signed it then it has to be enforced.

    November 25, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
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