Obama heckled in Chinatown

Updated: 2013-11-26 09:35

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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 Obama heckled in Chinatown

Young advocates who protested at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco's Chinatown where President Barack Obama made a speech to promote immigration reforms take a photo afterwards on Monday. Chen Jia / China Daily

President Barack Obama visited Chinatown in San Francisco on Monday and delivered a speech to promote immigration reform.

Before about 400 invited guests on Monday, Obama urged Republicans in Congress to stop standing in the way of immigration reform.

The reforms he mentioned included attracting skilled entrepreneurs, eliminating the backlog of family visas and providing a pathway to earned citizenship for those living in the shadows.

"This isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do," he said. But "this is Washington and everything is looked at through a political prism."

"I wasn't impressed by his (Obama's) answer, he didn't give any possible solution," Ju Hong, a 24-year-old student from South Korea, told China Daily after the speech on Monday. "My family, friends and community members are directly impacted by it and there are thousands of undocumented families that are torn apart because of it."

On Monday morning, Obama's speech was dramatically interrupted by protesters who urged him to halt deportations, of which his administration has conducted a record number.

"Obama preaches to the audience that he supports the immigration law, which I agree with — we do need to pass the immigration law as soon as possible," he said. "But, he can halt deportation by using the president's executive powers. Why doesn't he?"

Sources told China Daily most of the hecklers were affiliated with Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE).

"We needed to tell Obama we are sick of having our families deported and separated," said a young Chinese-heritage woman who asked not to be named.

She believed Obama chose Chinatown to deliver the speech because of the diversity of backgrounds there.

"As Asian Americans, we know that the ability to keep our families together — from an overly aggressive deportation system and a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, over 10 percent of which are from our communities — is at stake," said Ben de Guzman, co-director of National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA).

Just a few blocks away, most of people who were going about their normal daily activities had no idea of Obama's visit until they noticed the traffic jams by the recreation center on Monday morning.

"If I was invited to his speech, I would ask him why I have to be separated from my family members for Thanksgiving and Christmas," a Chinese-heritage resident surnamed Lee said.

"As I remember, he promised to help pass an immigration reform law within 100 days of taking office in 2008. Now it is 2013, but nothing has changed for my family and my friends," Lee said.

Contact the writer at chenjia@chinadailyusa.com