Obama in San Francisco, Squares Off With Hecklers Over Immigration Policies

A man (in background, second from right) heckles President Obama as he addressed an audience at San Francisco's Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center on the topic of immigration reform. (Jewel Samad/Getty Images)
A man (in background, second from right) heckles President Obama as he addressed an audience at San Francisco’s Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center on the topic of immigration reform. (Jewel Samad/Getty Images)

President Obama’s message on immigration reform was interrupted briefly by crowd members critical of the high number of deportations under the current administration.

Obama was in the midst of a speech that touched on immigration reform at San Francisco’s Betty Ann Ong Recreation Center when a man called out from a riser behind the president’s podium. Here’s the White House reporter’s pool report of the incident:

“Obama, I need your help, my family has been separated! Mr. President, please use your executive order!” he said, pleading with the president to help his family be reunited.

He and others started chanting “No deportation!”

As his cries went on, the crowd started attempting to shout them down. But the president stopped them, and police did not move to remove the heckler from the audience.

The president quieted the audience, and turning around to face the protester on the riser behind him, he said, “We’re a nation of law…what I’m proposing is to use our democratic process to achieve the same democratic goals that you want to achieve. But it won’t be as easy as just shouting.

“It’s not a matter of us saying we’re going to violate the laws,” he said. “That’s not our tradition…(but) ultimately justice” prevails.

The crowd cheered.

And here’s how the Bay Area News Group’s Josh Richman described the scene:

One young man shouted about his family being separated for Thanksgiving, and said Obama should use his executive power to stop this. “Stop deportations, yes we can,” the man and other people chanted.

The president stopped Secret Service agents who tried to remove the protesters.

“I respect the passion of these young people,” he said, noting they’re fighting to keep their families together. “But we’re also a nation of laws, that’s our tradition.”

“The easy way out is to yell and pretend I can do something” without addressing the laws that require such deportations, he said. “It’s not just a matter of us saying we’re going to violate the law.”

“Ultimately, justice and truth win out,” he said, returning to his exhortation for comprehensive reform.

“We look like the world — you’ve got a president named ‘Obama,’” he said somewhat wryly. “What makes us Americans is our shared belief in certain enduring principles, our allegiance to a set of ideas, to a creed, to the enduring promise of this country.”

Obama’s next scheduled stop in the city is for a campaign fundraising appearance at the SFJazz Center.

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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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