Heckled on immigration, Obama says won't act unilaterally

Reuters

By Jeff Mason

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 25 (Reuters) - A speech by PresidentBarack Obama aimed at putting pressure on the Congress to passimmigration reform was interrupted on Monday by a hecklerunhappy with the deportation of undocumented people in theUnited States.

As Obama neared the end of the speech on immigration reformat the Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center, a young man standingon the riser behind the president began to shout over him.

"Mr. President, please use your executive order to haltdeportations for all 11.5 million undocumented immigrants inthis country right now," the man said, as people next to himturned to look.

Obama tried to continue, but the man kept going.

"You have the power to stop deportation for all of them," heyelled.

"Actually, no, I don't," the president said, turning toaddress him, as several others joined in, chanting, "Stopdeportation now."

While the president is sometimes heckled by audience membersat speeches, it is unusual for the interruption to come from oneof the people allowed to stand as a backdrop for him while hespeaks.

As event organizers sought to remove the young man from thestand, Obama waved them off.

"I respect the passion of these young people," he said. "Ifin fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws inCongress, then I would do so."

"The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I cando something by violating our laws," he said. "And what I'mproposing is taking the harder path and using our democraticprocesses to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve."

The president held out hope in his speech that immigrationreform legislation that has passed the Senate but is stuck inthe Republican-led House of Representatives has a chance ofbeing signed into law.

Obama pointed to a remark by House Speaker John Boehner thatsome progress on immigration reform is possible.

"That is good news," the president said. "I believe thespeaker is sincere. I think he genuinely wants to get it done."

However, for many of Obama's supporters, the possibilitythat immigration reform could wither on the vine is hard totake, and for one person listening to the president on Monday,that feeling boiled over.

"I've not seen my family, " he said. "I need your help."

Obama said: "That's - that's exactly what we're talkingabout here." (Writing by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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