President Obama came to San Francisco, California today to deliver a speech on the importance of immigration reform, where he applauded the contribution of immigrants and chided House Republicans for refusing to take action and pass legislation. He also gave a shout-out to the #Fast4Families, Eliseo Medina, and others who have been going without food in order to draw attention to immigration reform, for fourteen days now.
“I’m seeing brave advocates who have been fasting for two weeks in the shadow of the Capitol,” Obama said, “sacrificing themselves in an effort to get Congress to act. And I want to say to Eliseo Medina, my friend from SEIU, and the other fasters who are there as we speak, I want them to know we hear you. We’re with you. The whole country hears you.”
Later in his speech, the president was interrupted by young activists angry about his record-high rate of deportations. As the Huffington Post reported:
“Our families are separated,” a young man yelled during remarks in San Francisco at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center. “Mr. President, please use your executive authority to halt [deportations]. 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,” the president replied, “and that’s why we’re here.”
Watch the video below:
The funny thing is, in July of 2011, Obama gave a similar speech at an NCLR conference where DREAMers asked him to protect young immigrants eligible for the DREAM Act. At the time, Obama said that he could not take legislative matters into his own hands. The audience chanted back at him, “Yes you can! Yes you can!” Obama announced his deferred action for DREAMers (DACA) program less than a year later.
As we’ve been saying all year, the ball is in the Republicans’ court. Speaker Boehner and the House Republican leadership need to take up immigration reform, because we have the votes to pass it, because the American people support it, and because Republicans need it.
But there’s more that President Obama could do to stop the inhumane rate of deportations, as well. Just this month, DHS announced that it will halt the deportations of US servicemembers’ relatives. But it also deported Brigido, a father of two who was not a deportation priority. There is more that Obama can do to stop families from being separated. Republicans aren’t the only ones who have earned criticism for their bad record on immigration reform.