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Obama Engages Anti-Deportation Heckler At Immigration Speech

A rare heckle from the crowd behind the president at a carefully staged event in San Francisco. A speech turns into a conversation.

Posted on November 25, 2013, at 3:49 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — At an immigration speech in San Francisco Monday, President Obama was confronted by a group of hecklers angry over his administration's record number of deportations since Obama took office.

Normally, when the president gets shouted down in the middle of a speech, the heckler — or hecklers — are removed from the room. But on Monday, Obama chose to turn to one of his critics, who was standing in the crowd behind him, and engage in conversation.

"You have the power to stop all deportations!" the heckler shouted.

"Actually, I don't," Obama said.

The president turned away from the camera in front of him and spoke to the man directly for a few moments after calling on security to let the heckler stay.

It was a rare high-profile glimpse into the criticisms Obama faces from the left on immigration. Some pro-reform groups have called on the White House to end deportations, which they say were stepped up in a fruitless attempt to woo conservatives to the immigration reform table. With momentum on a bill seemingly stalled, the pro-reform critics have called on Obama to scale back deportations and use his executive powers in other ways to enact as much reform to the immigration system as he can without Congress.