Obama debates protestors at immigration rally

Young protestors at an Obama immigration rally demand the president halt all deportations

By Elias Isquith

Published November 25, 2013 10:15PM (EST)

While speaking at a pro-immigration reform rally in California, President Barack Obama was interrupted by a group of young protestors who demanded he issue an executive order stopping all deportations.

"Mr. President, please use your executive authority to halt deportations!" yelled one protestor in the midst of Obama's remarks. "We agree that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but at the same time, you have the power to stop deportations!"

"Actually, I don't," Obama said. "And that's why we're here."

"Stop deportations! Yes, we can!" other protestors began to yell in response.

Obama, who requested the protestors not be escorted from the event, said he respected the interrupters' passion. But, he said, he couldn't simply stop all deportations, even if he wanted to.

"What you need to know, when I'm speaking as president of the United States and I come to this community, is that if in fact I could solve all of these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so," Obama said. "But we're also a nation of laws. That's part of our tradition."

"So the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws," continued Obama. "What I'm proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic process 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."

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Before the interruption, the president made his pitch to the House GOP to take up immigration reform to deal with a number of different issues, even if they do it through a more piecemeal approach. "It's Thanksgiving," he joked. "We can carve that bird into multiple pieces."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week that immigration reform is "absolutely not" dead, although without answering questions about the timetable. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who previously said immigration bills won't go for votes until next year, said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that reform "is going to happen in a step-by-step method."

But so far, it's not clear what pieces House Republicans plan to include. While there are already proposals on border security, high-skilled worker visas and interior enforcement, the GOP has not put any bills on the table to give legal status to undocumented immigrants. House Democrats, joined by three Republicans, introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill in October and are urging a vote, but House leadership has indicated they won't get one.

Watch Obama's interaction with the hecklers below:

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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