Obama speech interrupted by Bay Area immigration activists

President Obama turns around to address Ju Hong, during a speech in Chinatown, Nov. 25
Photo via Youtube video, PBS Newshour

Ju Hong just wants to see his family for Thanksgiving, and that may be why he shouted down the president of the United States.  

Hong interrupted President Barack Obama’s nationally televised speech in Chinatown today, shouting for justice at the tail end of the president’s call for immigration reform. 

San Franciscans and politicos gathered in the Betty Ong Recreation Center to hear the president call on congress to pass new laws regulating immigration, something sorely needed, as Obama is widely known for deporting record numbers of immigrants. The Pew Research Center shows he’s deported more per year than George Bush ever did, with over 392,000 deported in 2011 alone, 80,000 more than Bush’s highest year. 

Obama called for a greater focus on the plight of Asian immigrants, as most of the country’s discussion around deportations focuses on the southern border. 

“It’s fitting we’re here in Chinatown just a few miles away from Angel Island,” Obama said. “In the early `1900’s about 300,000 people, maybe some of your ancestors, passed through on their way to a new life in America. For many it represented the end of a long and arduous journey.”

“Maybe I started out washing dishes, but my son can become mayor of San Francisco,” Obama said, to laughter. “If we stay true to this history, if we can cross that finish line, and go ahead and do what needs to be done, were going to grow that economy,” Obama said, and then was interrupted by Hong, shouting across the room. 

“My family is separated for Thanksgiving. Our families are separated,” Hong shouted. “I need your help. There are thousands of deported immigrants. Mr. President please use your executive order to halt deportations for all 11.5 undocumented immigrants in this country right now. When you have the power to stop deportations for all.”  

Obama turned around and replied, “Actually I don’t.”

“Stop deportations!” Hong and his friends started to chant. 

Likely to the Secret Service, Obama said “No no, don’t worry about it guys. These guys don’t need to go.” Then he spoke to Hong. “Let me finish. You can stay there. It won’t be as easy as just shouting, it requires lobbying and getting it done,” he said.

Outside the rec center, Hong said he felt that Obama’s speech had lots of flash but no substance. 


Ju Hong interviewed by reporters outside of the Betty Ong Recreation Center.

“Families are still being torn apart,” he said. “I’m not satisfied at all. He said he didn’t want to violate the law, but he has the power to stop deportations.” 

Hong, 24, is an Alameda resident from Korea who came to the United States when he was 11 years old. When his grandfather died back home, he was unable to pay his final respects. Now he wants to fly back to South Korea to see his family, but can’t risk not being able to return.

The fear of deportation has touched him in many ways. In 2010 his home was burglarized, he said, but his mother said not to call the police. She feared they would discover they were undocumented.

“I was a strong support of Obama in 2008,” he said. But now, he’s lost hope. 

Hong was one of the students protesting Janet Napolitano's appointment to head the University of California system, which we covered a few weeks ago (Undocumented and Unafraid, 11/12). 


Thanks for not using the term 'heckler' once in your article. Great to recognize those who have this rare opportunity deserve better. Love seeing people in power who are typically insulated from real, angry, hurt, marginalized voices brought face to face with them.

Posted by @bobsterrrob on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

The Democrats are not pushing legislation because they give a shit about undocumented immigrants, rather because they want to guarantee an ongoing supply of cheap labor to undercut domestic tech salaries.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

domestic tech salaries? I certainly haven't seen it anywhere. People, especially coders, are generally not stupid. They know how to use Glassdoor to look up prevailing wages for tech employees in the Bay Area.

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

That's the stated intent of the policy as proposed by the NSF, to lower CS PhD salaries. The Bay Area tech labor market is not indicative of how it is elsewhere.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

inevitable. That happens through more immigration, more outsourcing, a falling dollar, or all three.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:28 am

Please, run for office under such a platform.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:40 am

Immigration only drives down wages if the US pays its' workers too much in the first place.

Nobody emigrates to Bangladesh and drvies down wages there.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 7:28 am

"We have to learn to disagree without being disagreeable" - MLK

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:29 am

"Outside the rec center, Hong said he felt that Obama’s speech had lots of flash but no substance."

Lots of flash and no substance? Uh huh. You got that right. Good for Ju Hong! I don't know why anyone wastes their time listening to these useless speeches with their lies, and I felt the same way under Bush. Empty feel-good pabulum speeches. That's all you get from Mr Change and Bush as well. No substance at all. Just bull shit. And it's been that way since the "Hope" and "Change we can believe in" fluff marketing slogans that this man used as bait for his 2008 campaign and the suckers who fell for him. Like most corporatist politicians, this man tells people what he thinks they want to hear, and unfortunately the sheep fall for it every time because it's coming from someone who has that title "president of the United States" so that means that he couldn't possibly lie, correct? What damn gullible people!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

"Janet Napolitano's appointment to head the University of California system,"

What an abomination. Another example of shit floating to the top.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

"It won’t be as easy as just shouting, it requires lobbying and getting it done,” he said."

Clueless. When he gets off script he sounds especially clueless. Just like Bush.

"It won't be as easy as just shouting." What a patronizing thing to say in an attempt to put Ju Hong down.

"It requires lobbying." Lobbying of whom? The corporatist D and R parasites in congress? Yeah, one is likely to get a lot done with that useless group of elitists (half of whom are millionaires). They work for their corporate owners (and do their bidding) and not We The People.

Just typical empty words from the "Chairman of Change," whose policies overall are worse than those of George W Bush.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 1:16 am

When your house is burning, first you tend to the needs of those engulfed in flames and don't pay much attention to those trying to get into the burning house.

"We the people" would prefer that the government address the needs of those of us who are here legally and whose families have been here for a while before addressing the needs of newcomers or inviting newcomers.

So long as government's role is to address the needs of everyone but the majority of Americans, there's going to be political instability. So long as government caters to the elites, with us on the menu, there are going to be problems, throwing a few crumbs at some of "the most vulnerable" notwithstanding.

Take care of the majority and then we can talk about addressing the needs of newcomers. The message of "Hi, I'm here illegally, so now I'm going to harass the president" probably does not play well politically outside of some of the immigrant community and those on the receiving end of harassment from this president's right wing economic and military policies.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:24 am

Ju Hong was not harassing Obama. He was addressing him and since this man is OUR EMPLOYEE, people should be able to address THEIR EMPLOYEE whenever they want. He's not a monarch, yet. Although to hear him, he pretends he's as powerless as Queen Elizabeth II. Ju was getting his attention and it was the only way he was about to get this man's attention. Because Obama wouldn't give Ju his attention any other way no matter how many letters, faxes, phone calls, emails, petitions, protests (etc) Ju made to this man. Obama was forced to give Ju attention, or show who he really as a person to a national audience. Can't have that! So Obama chose to not show who he really is in order to continue the faux shiny veneer.

And since Ju came to the US when he was only 11 years old, I doubt he had much choice in the matter as far as coming here.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2013 @ 5:00 am

No, the president and elected officials are the theoretically employees of citizens and voters, the sovereigns in the US system of government.

But we all know that is not practically the case, that elected officials are the employees of those who purchase the office for them.

The primary political problem facing the US is the fact that the sovereignty of citizens and voters has been hijacked by the 1%.

So, to put a fine point on it, get in line behind the rest of us. Hundreds of millions of us have seen our government hijacked and that is the primary task for progressives.

For people who've effectively jumped the queue of immigration to try to jump the queue of politics is something I find disrespectful and rude. I'd imagine that it does not play well with most Americans to see immigrants demand political attention while our political house is on fire.

To hitch your wagon to a political prospect that is only viable because big business wants to import cheap labor under special visas does not earn your cause any friends.

We need to tend to the needs of existing Americans first, the ones who have been paying and waiting, and then tend to the needs of undocumented immigrants in a manner more humane than "your employee" Obama who's doubled down on deportations.

There are more African Americans living in detestable conditions whose families were forced here centuries ago and who were kept as second class citizens and still face racist discrimination and denial of opportunity than there are undocumented workers. Get in line.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 27, 2013 @ 5:57 am

There are plenty of people out there wanting there to be no change in the law.

The paranoid style of the American left thinks that the reason they don't get something, even when many of their fellow Americans are opposed to it, is because of the conspiracy.

Progressives should get what they want because they have convinced themselves with their rape of the English language that everyone agrees with them.

The paranoid left should get what they want because everyone but them is stupid and manipulated. Open the borders because thats what everyone would want if they were not so stupid and manipulated, we as a nation should do what people should want, because it is what they people want.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

So if you are here illegally, you should get to shout "stop deportation." Yeah right, give 'em a free pass. You don't have to follow the law(s) here, all you have to do is bitch loudly, and get what you want. As a citizen, I find this kind of left wing liberalism deplorable.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:25 am

Obama handled a situation where somebody was acting like an asshole with patience and grace.

Posted by guestD on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 9:11 am

What a splendid bootlicker. Do you genuflect and salute to your television when you see your Obama on the screen? How long have you had your head firmly planted in his upper colon?

None of these politicians are your "friend" including Obama that you've allowed yourself to fall for and gush over at every opportunity. You don't have enough money to be their friend.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

spine and wasn't going to be a knee jerk leftie.

Now the left hate him more than Bush.

Hell hath no fury like an effeminate progressive activist scorned.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

When I think of people obsessed with boot licker's I think of a bear, or some sort of asexual shut in.

Not that there is anything wrong with either group, well maybe the shut in part.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

Obama said this: "it requires lobbying and getting it done,” he said."

Translation: It requires Bribery.

Some education for Obama: Bribery requires big $$$$ Obama. You supposed to know that because we were told countless times during the 2008 campaign that (referring to you): "He's a smart guy; a Constitutional scholar."

Lobbyist: Money to Congress

Go to opensecrets dot org to learn how lobbyists bribe politicians with big money.

I hope Ju Hong has this kind of bribe money otherwise the corrupt congress won't give him the time of day. I understand Ju's frustration, but frankly I wouldn't have wasted my time with Obama. You're talking to the bourgeois elite. They live in a very different world than the rest of us.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

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