A warm reception for President Obama in San Francisco's Chinatown Monday became a heated confrontation with a young man standing just a few feet behind the President on the stage.
About 400 people had gathered at the Betty Ong Center to hear the President speak on immigration reform. The President called for House legislators to get onboard with a senate bill aimed at modernizing the legal immigration system. As he was concluding his remarks, Ju Hong- who describes himself as an undocumented South Korean grad student studying at San Francisco State University- interrupted the President to call on him to use his executive power to end deportations of undocumented immigrants.
The President turned around and tried to interrupt Hong. But Hong and a small group who had been invited to be on stage at the event began chanting, "Stop the deportations!"
President Obama prevented security from escorting the group from the stage. He told Hong, "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."
Hong said the administration has a bad track record on helping undocumented families. "I'm proud of what I have done because I have spoke on behalf of undocumented immigrants who were put in detention centers right now who got deported back to a native country."
Supporters of the President said he handled the situation well.
"It's not him alone making the sole decision," said Rabiah Khalid of Asian Americans for Community Involvement. "And a lot of time you have to explain [that] to people who've come from countries where the Prime Minister or dictator makes the sole decision."
This visit comes as President Obama's approval ratings have dropped dramatically. On the President's last visit to the Bay Area on June 6th, Gallup tracked his approval rating nationwide at 62 percent and disapproval at 32 percent. By last Friday, those numbers had almost flipped, with 39 percent approving of this performance and 54 percent disapproving.
At a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the SF Jazz Center Monday afternoon, hundreds opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline turned out to greet the President. "We would've had a bigger crowd if we knew this more in advance but we did pretty well," said Keystone XL opponent Ken Jones.
Ticketed guests told KTVU they found President Obama's visit Monday inspiring, in part, because of his current difficulties.
"What he basically said is we just need to keep on going," said Vanessa Chacon. "Change is not
easy, it's hard to implement."
The President left the Bay Area late Monday afternoon to travel to Los Angeles for several fundraisers. He's expected to return to Washington, D.C. Tuesday afternoon.