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. Richard Long

    Obama hasn't done enough? He's spent millions on getting the FDA to educate Mexican citizens on how to get food stamps when they cross the border illegally.

    November 25, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  2. MaryM

    Protesters wanted President Obama to use an Executive Order to stop illegals from being deported. The President said he could not do that because Congress would have to change the U.S. Laws. That is it

    November 25, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  3. Name

    Have boehner call a vote.

    Problem solved.

    November 25, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  4. karbop1

    I'm not an extremist Republican and I am against giving amnesty to people who chose to break the law. There are so many immigrants here legally who are doing everything the right way, have skills and education, who have jobs, pay taxes and pay for their children's education and have the willingness to be part of America who are not being included in this freebie. What's wrong with this picture?

    November 25, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  5. Name

    Honestly being an immigrant from an asian continent myself, I felt like I was slapped in the face when some deportations are being suspended. Yes, it's cruel and heartless, but don't you read the immigration law? I'm sorry for those who lose their families because of this, but you reap what you sow. You should acknowledge that the moves by people who try to sidestep the law is a calculated risk and just like our great leader's ACA, until there are amendments, the law is the law....

    I waited in the line for a work visa and I earned my citizenship in my blood and sweat through the military. I can be compassionate, but I have no sympathy for law breakers.

    November 25, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  6. Fair is fair

    You won't see Obama in any big crowds again! lol

    November 25, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  7. Helobubba

    It's seldom reported that the Senate bill would double immigration and bring in 20 million immigrants every decade. This while the economy remains sluggish and unemployment stubbornly high. This would certainly increase the profits of the big corporations while lowering wages and increasing unemployment. This is a bad bill for the American worker!

    November 25, 2013 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  8. Bull

    Another waste of millions of taxpayer's dollars for this guy to fly to Hollywood for a fundraiser.

    If he, and all democrats, really cared about the poor, then why doesn't he ever go to east Los Angeles?

    November 25, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  9. mutantsubhuman

    It has been kicked down the road far enough? Yes, deport them and the problem is solved.

    November 25, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  10. justme

    He's the President not the king or the emperor. Think ceo and congress is his board of executives except he can't fire them.

    November 25, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  11. JDJA

    Totally staged event to blame Republicans, wake up people. The President has been the partisan one from the get go, and again he blames Republicans. It is his way or the highway and now we will all pay for Obamacare for the rest of our days.

    November 25, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  12. Jim970

    Indeed. What sort of country are we if we won't pander to those who have broken the laws?

    November 25, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  13. Dave Hawkins

    POTUS seems to think that the GOP owes him for refusing to negotiate with them. Didn't anybody ever to him that to get along you gotta go along, grease some wheels instead of burning up the brakes. The man is an idiot.

    November 25, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. Jim970

    For penguin. Immigration as you talk about it was mostly done through Ellis Island. Those immigrants were prescreened (after all steamships would have had to take them back if they were ineligible for entry into the US). They were processed because they landed at the island, the processing point. They did not sneak across the border, cutting wire fences, hiding under false floors in trucks, or otherwise sneaking in. Big difference. Huge!

    November 25, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  15. Fair is fair

    So he admits his executive orders were breaking the law!!! Holy smokes should have used the telepromter ! This guy probably lies to himself in the mirror when he wakes up

    November 25, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  16. AlgoreLIes

    obama! just make the american tax payer flipping the bill for mooching immigrants official:


    it already is. sucks to be in line at the grocery store and have one cart full of essentials when government credit card holders get to fill in 2 or 3 carts...with my tax money.

    November 25, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  17. Iamnotfooled

    Boehner leading from behind, the Tea Party. He is useless.

    November 25, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  18. loadmaster3

    It's obvious that the "heckler" was staged for Obama's benefit in a "staged" come-back. The re*ime is so predictable!

    November 25, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  19. ed

    If their kids are here for what ever reason register them, fine them let them stay, boot the rest! And change the law on anchor babies. Then if you want in, no problem, just do it legally! If you can't don't come here.

    November 25, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  20. Iamnotfooled

    President Obama wants healthcare for all, he wants to end wars not start them, he wants people to have enough to eat (food stamps) and he wants immigration reform to help these families stay together. What's wrong with that? Republicans want No healthcare-leave the status quo which was NOT working, wars are ending, not starting new ones with Syria or Iran. He wants them to pass the Farm Bill cause it helps to feed the poor, and he wants immigration reform that will help these families and create more tax revenue for America. Republicans are against all of this. You choose.

    November 25, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  21. soabsurd

    Yet more of Obama's hype and blame. yawn – so much for uniting the country, we are now more divided than ever.

    November 25, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  22. Mke

    Everything Obama does is staged.

    November 25, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  23. Jason Ransone

    It must be absolutely exhausting for the President to spend every waking minute blaming someone else. The economy is Bush's fault; the healthcare failures are the insurance industry's fault; Bengazhi deaths are driven by bad decision at the State Department (which reports to him, as I recall); the IRS mess is due to zealous over-political people in department of treasury (again, report to him).... Maybe people just think he is a dope who sort of tripped into office because he was standing there???

    November 25, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  24. Andrew

    So you mean he blamed someone else? Interesting.

    November 25, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  25. McBob79

    He deserves to be heckled because he's the least effective president we've seen since Carter and maybe even since Coolidge. Divisive, blames every one else, his signature legislation is a botched embarrassment, Benghazi, NSA spying on us and allies, record debt, record deficits, record numbers on food stamps, record numbers unemployed, lowest work force participation in more than 30 years. I can go on, but you get the picture. I'm sure I'll be moderated out.

    November 25, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
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