"It's long past time to fix our broken immigration system," Obama told an audience at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco Monday. "We need to make sure that Washington finishes what so many of you started."
"It is long past time to reform immigration system that doesn't serve America as well as it should," Obama said.
He chided a faction of Republicans in the House for blocking consideration of a Senate bill that cleared the upper chamber on a healthy bipartisan vote, which meets key criteria. The measure would strengthen U.S. borders, "level the playing field" by holding employers accountable if they knowingly hire illegal workers, modernize the legal immigration system and provide a path to earned citizenship if certain criteria are met.
"When it comes to immigration reform, we have to have the confidence to believe we can get this done and we should get it done," Obama said. "The only thing standing in our way right now is the unwillingness of certain Republicans in Congress to catch up with the rest of the country."
He praised predecessor President George W. Bush for trying to push through immigration reform.
"So my message to Congress is, rather than create problems, let's prove Washington can get something done," Obama said. "This is something that has broad-based support. We've been working on it for a decade now. This reform comes as close as we've gotten to something that will benefit everybody, now and for decades to come, and it has the potential to enrich this country in ways we can't even imagine."
Near the end of his speech, Obama was heckled by someone sitting behind him about families of undocumented workers being deported and separated and others who chanted slogans about stopping deportations, which have been conducted in record numbers by the Obama administration.
As he waved off Secret Service personnel trying to remove the protester, Obama said, "Lets him sit there -- I respect the passion of young people who feel deeply about concerns for family."
"Now, 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 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."
"And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws," Obama said. "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."
But the great thing about the United States he said is, "we have this wonderful process of democracy, and sometimes it's messy and sometimes it is hard. But ultimately justice and truth win out."
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