President Barack Obama is finding out that the American public is less and less enamored by his rhetoric and policies. During a speech, Obama delivered in hometown of Chicago at the Copernicus Center on Tuesday evening, Nov. 25, 2014 about his immigration plans, hecklers confronted the president. They do not believe he is going far enough to stop deportations with his immigration executive actions, which will prevent the deportations of 4.7 million of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
The president was selling one of the executive orders, which would end deportations for illegal immigrants, who have children born in the United States or are legal residents, and allow them to have work permits, social security numbers and pay taxes for the next three years. The president was addressing an audience of 1800 in Chicago’s Polish neighborhood that has a high population of illegal immigrants, but he again met up with a couple of audience members that were not there to hear what he had to said, but that they wanted him to hear their grievances.
After speaking for 20 minutes, three or four women started screaming at the president, “complaining” about the executive actions. One of the women was caught on camera, because she was sitting three rows behind the president. Her approach was more visual, holding up a sign that read; “Obama Stop Deportations Now.”
President Obama questioned their behavior and outbursts, telling them it “doesn’t make sense to yell at me right now.” Continuing he explained he took action to solve their complaints already; “I understand you might disagree, but we’ve got to be able to talk honestly about these issues. You’re absolutely right that there have been significant numbers of deportations, but what you’re not paying attention to is that I just took an action to change the law.” That remark prompted applause from the audience.
Still the three women pushed the president who was becoming more and more impatient and sounding defensive. When he stated that his actions would deport “felons not families,” one screamed back “That’s a lie.” Another interrupted, that it was “not just Republicans” that called illegal immigrants felons, to which Obama replied “Borders do mean something,” and that when they enter or live in the country without the proper documentation it is illegal. The hecklers also chanted shouting “not one more, stop deportations” and also “there is no justice.”
Periodically as they shouted and chanted in between his speaking, Obama was forced to stop and he felt compelled to try to prevent them from continuing. Once he told them “just sit down,” and “Nobody’s removing you. I’ve heard you. But you’ve got to listen to me, too.” The president also tried to make light of the situation that no doubt annoyed and embarrassed him, saying, “OK, It’s good to be back in Chicago.” Continuing Obama tried to stop the protesters for the last time, responding “But I’m not going to be able to have a conversation with each of you separately. There are other ways of engaging. Just sit down…. I know people are passionate about this. But be respectful of people who are here.”
President Obama first announced his plan in an address to the nation on Thursday evening, Nov. 20. Since then he has been selling his executive actions directly to the American public speaking on Friday, Nov. 21 at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, devoting his weekly address entitled “Immigration Accountability Executive Action” to his plan, and appearing in an ABC News “This Week” interview on Sunday, Nov. 23.
No matter how much he tries to sell his immigration plans a majority of Americans do not support them. A new Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday morning determined that only 45 percent of Americans support his go it alone strategy, but 48 percent oppose his plans for executive actions. The poll showed the lowest support for amnesty, with the 35 percent believing illegal immigrants should be deported.
The president is used to the Republican Congressional leaders and members opposing his executive actions for going too far without Congress passing legislation. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY have promised to stop Obama’s executive actions, though they have yet to outline their plan. Meanwhile some Republicans in Congress are talking about a government shutdown, impeaching, suing or censuring the president for taking action going beyond his constitutional authorization.
President Obama has been heckled a lot recently whenever he speaks about immigration reform, and audience members even walked out while he was still speaking during a rally in the end of October as he was campaigning for some Democrats this midterm election cycle.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.