President Obama brought former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, now chancellor of the University of California system, along to an immigration reform speech in San Francisco’s Chinatown today, where he was interrupted by protesters wanting him to issued an executive order to stop all deportations.
Obama squeezed the speech in between four fundraising events on the West Coast.
He began, though, by praising himself on the Iran nuclear deal.
“Now, some of you may recall that when I first ran for president I said it was time for a new era of American leadership in the world, one that turned the page on a decade of war and began a new era of our engagement with the world. And as president and a commander in chief, I’ve done what I said: We ended the war in Iraq, we brought our troops home. Osama bin Laden met justice. The war in Afghanistan will end next year,” Obama said.
“And as the strongest, most powerful nation on the face of the Earth, we’ve engaged in clear-eyed and principled diplomacy even with our adversaries in order to begin to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and to place the first real constraints in a decade on Iran’s nuclear program,” he added, failing to note that the funding for the program to dismantle Syria’s massive chemical weapons stockpile may run out at the end of this month.
“‘Cause I firmly believe in what President Kennedy once said. He said, ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.’ I believe that. And this diplomacy, backed by the unprecedented sanctions we brought on Iran, has brought us the progress that was achieved this weekend. For the first time in a decade we’ve halted the progress on Iran’s nuclear program. Key parts of the program will be rolled back.”
Obama claimed “international inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear-related facilities,” although the agreement does not expressly include unannounced inspections.
“So this will help Iran from building a nuclear weapon. And, over the coming months, we’re gonna continue our diplomacy with the goal of achieving a comprehensive solution that deals with the threat of Iran’s nuclear program once and for all. And, if Iran seizes the opportunity and chooses to join the global community, then we can begin to chip away with the mistrust that has existed for many years between our two nations,” he said.
“None of that’s going to be easy. Huge challenges remain, but we cannot close the door on diplomacy, and we cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world’s problems. We cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of conflict. And tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it is not the right thing for our security.”
“It is not the right thing for our security,” he repeated, waiting for the applause.
“Now, this progress and the potential it offers reminds us of what is possible when the United States has the courage to lead; not just with the force of arms, but with the strength of diplomacy and our commitment to peace. That’s what keeps us strong. That’s what makes us a beacon for the world. That’s how I will continue to lead so long as I’m president of the United States.”
Taking a segue into immigration, Obama said “we need to make sure Washington finishes what so many Americans just like you started.”
“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. And, by the way, most Americans agree,” he added. “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.”
“And look, let’s be honest. Some folks automatically think, well if Obama’s for it, then I’ve got to be against it. Even if I was — before that, I was for it. But I want to remind everybody, to his great credit, my Republican predecessor, President Bush, was for reform. He proposed reform like this almost a decade ago. I was in the Senate. I joined 23 Senate Republicans back then supporting reform. It’s worth remembering that the Senate bill that just passed won more than a dozen Republican votes this past summer. And some of them even forget that I’m — you know, sometimes people forget I’m not running for office again. Michelle doesn’t forget.”
Obama was interrupted by protesters shouting “stop deportation” and a request that he use an executive order to halt all deportations.
“You have a power to stop deportations for all –” a protester said.
“Actually, I don’t. And that’s why we’re here,” Obama said.
Last year Obama directed Napolitano’s department to defer immigration enforcement — including deportations — against certain illegal immigrants brought to the country as children.
“We’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition,” the president told the protesters. “And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. 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.”