CHICAGO (AP) — Taking on the hecklers who've been interrupting his speeches lately, President Barack Obama argued back Tuesday with a point-by-point rebuttal of their arguments and suggested they "get the facts."
Obama had traveled home to Chicago for an appearance aimed at broadening the appeal of his recent executive actions on immigration beyond the predominantly Latino population that lobbied heavily for relief. He visited a community center in a predominantly Polish-American neighborhood.
About midway through his remarks, three protesters strategically placed around the auditorium rose and began criticizing his deportation policy, saying he hasn't just been deporting criminals. "You have been deporting families," one heckler shouted.
Obama listened. He sympathized. He asked them to stop yelling. Then when it appeared he'd had enough, the former lawyer and former constitutional law professor set about deconstructing their arguments.
"What you're not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law, so that's point No. 1," Obama said. "Point No. 2, the way the change in the law works is that we're reprioritizing how we enforce our immigration law generally."
"The point is that though I understand why you might have yelled at me a month ago, although I disagree with some of your characterizations, it doesn't make much sense to yell at me right now when we're making changes," he said as the audience of approximately 1,800 people applauded.
"But the point is, let's make sure that you get the facts and that you know exactly what we're doing," Obama said. He said if they still have disagreements with his immigration policy, then they can appeal to some of the immigration advocacy groups the administration has worked with on the issue.
A heckler interrupted Obama last Friday in Las Vegas, where he gave an immigration speech the day after outlining the changes in a nationally televised prime-time address. The announcement inflamed Republicans, who have vowed to rein in Obama but have not fallen behind any specific plan.
At issue is the extent of Obama's executive actions, which make nearly 5 million immigrants eligible to be spared from deportation. The measures would apply to parents of U.S. citizens or of legal permanent residents. The parents would have to have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. Obama also expanded a program designed to extend deportation protections to immigrants who entered the US illegally as children.
But in a blow to some immigrant activists, Obama did not provide protections for parents of such young immigrants who are known as Dreamers.