Obama Promotes Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The president hopes to gather support for a legislative overhaul of America's immigration policies.
3:00 | 11/25/13

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Transcript for Obama Promotes Comprehensive Immigration Reform
This is a special room. I'm dance company or -- -- ABC news digital special report. President Obama is in San Francisco today -- -- for congress to act now on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Mr. Obama is working his way south he held her fund raisers last night in Seattle. He will attend a few more in San Fran and Los Angeles before heading home tomorrow. We're taking a live look there are waiting for the president to make his way up on stage when he does we will go there but -- -- -- -- bring in Mary Bruce -- joining us now from Washington DC -- the classic presidential recent weather chances this speech. As gonna take the spotlight off Obama care in Iran. I can't -- say if Clinton on it isn't the president doing what we see him do a lot recently which is to try and hit if the public attention off of this obamacare mass. And on to some of his other second term priorities and today it's immigration reform you mention. He's in San Francisco they're speaking at a community center where is it urged house Republicans to go ahead and act on a comprehensive bill. But really and -- his administration is able to solve this box roll out. And fix the health care website there's really no chance -- he's going to be able to breathe any kind of fresh life into these other priorities both. Party saying they want reform but after that though they the agreement is not very widespread and we'll get. The response. And just America's legacy as the president is making its way. Through the rope line there -- if you and scaled the -- in the background there customary -- the president makes the public appearance. -- you -- if you wouldn't mind just in those couple minutes a couple of seconds. As far as any kind of agreement on both sides though there seems to be very little of in the -- to get something done. Actually both seem to agree to the overall need to reform immigration but it's the -- doesn't a lot of that sticking point released around. They need for a pathway to citizenship and that's something that the president supports that something that's in the bill that passed the democratic led senate that's now -- -- In the house that -- the president will of course called on Republicans to go ahead and pass. And we will see exactly how strong that message will be made as he is making his way -- to the podium let's listen. Let's just. It. It is great to be back in California. It is great to be what all of you I love San Francisco. -- -- We got -- got great -- got a great people. Beautiful -- No more super villains -- back -- cleaned up the street. Okay. The company. Welcome back to -- The yeah I want to start by thanking gave up four of the wonderful introduction and the great work that she's going to give her -- big -- Applause. We'll. Want to thank -- mayor have -- Lieutenant governor -- -- want -- recognize some. Wonderful members of congress who are fighting every day for the people of California Mike Honda. Parents. -- -- -- -- -- They are all doing great work every single. We have a special guest. Janet Napolitano who is now. Overseeing the entire. UC system and -- -- -- -- and a great job. We -- her back and get Washington. But she is going to be outstanding leading the University of California. Not before I begin I wanna say a few words bout. The news from the weekend. I'm here to talk about immigration reform but I'm also. -- in my capacity as commander in chief and this weekend together with our allies and our partners the United States reached an agreement with a -- on -- first. Towards resolving our concerns over its nuclear program. Know some -- -- were called the when I first ran for -- I said it was time. For a new era of American leadership in the world. One that turned the page on a decade of war and began a new era of our engagement with the world. And as president and as commander in chief. -- don't what I set we ended the war in Iraq we brought our troops home. Osama bin Laden met justice. The war and Afghanistan -- and next year. And as the strongest most powerful nation on. The face of the earth we've engaged in clear eyed and principled diplomacy even what -- -- adversaries. In order to begin to destroy serious chemical weapons. And took place the first real constraints in the decade on Iran's nuclear program. -- I firmly believe in what president Kennedy wants he set. Let us never negotiate out of -- but let us never fear to negotiate. I believe that in this diplomacy backed by the unprecedented sanctions we brought -- Iran. Has brought us the progress that was achieved this week for the first time in a decade we've halted the progress on Iran's nuclear program. Key parts of the program will be rolled back. International inspectors will have -- president access to Iran's nuclear related missiles so this will help. Iran from building a nuclear weapon and over the coming months we're gonna continue our diplomacy. With the goal of achieving a comprehensive solution that deals with the threat of Iran's nuclear program once -- -- and if Iran seizes this opportunity. And choose to join the global community that we can begin to chip way ahead. The mistrust that's existed for many many years between our two nations. None of act not -- that's going to be using huge challenges remain but we cannot close the door on diplomacy. And we cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world's problems we cannot commit ourselves what endless cycle of conflict. And tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically but it's not the right thing for our secure. -- -- This progress. Potential problems reminds us of wanted to -- the wrong when the United States virtually. I just with the force of arms but with the strength of our diplomacy and our commitment to peace that's what keeps us strong. That's what makes -- a beacon to the world. -- -- continue to -- so long as I'm -- the United States. And that spirit not just. What we can criticize or -- down -- be against but what we can build together that's what brings me here today. Because it's long past time. To fix our broken immigration system. Okay. We. Need to make sure Washington finishes what so many Americans just like you started. We've got to finish the job. And it's fitting that were here in Chinatown just a few miles away from Angel -- In the early nineteen hundreds about 300000 people. Maybe some of your ancestors. Passed through on their way to a new life in America. And for many it represented the end of a long and arduous -- that finally arrived at a place where. They believed anything was possible. And for -- -- also represented the beginning of the new struggle against prejudice in a country that didn't always treat. It's immigrants fairly or for them the same rights -- their but he -- -- agents -- us. But sort of the Irish sort of Italians -- sorted Jews. And many groups still -- to that. That didn't stop. Those brave men and women from coming there were drawn by a believe. In the power of opportunity. In -- belief that says maybe -- never had a chance of good education but this -- a place where my daughter to go to college. Maybe -- -- about washing dishes but this is a place where my son. Can become mayor of San Francisco. I have to make sacrifices today but those sacrifices are worth it. If it means a better life for my -- And that's -- family story that will be shared. By millions of Americans are on the table on Thursday. It's a story that drew my great great great. Great grandfather from a small village in Ireland. Andrew my father from a small village in Kenya. And -- the drew so many your ancestors here. That America's place where you can make it if you try. And here's something interesting. Today -- more than one in four. Residents born outside the United States. Came here from Asian couples. Many through our family immigration system. They're doctors. Business owners laborers refugees. This rec center's namesake video. Was a hero on 90 up. Which is also the daughter of immigrants who grew up not far from here and and we're honored to have her -- with us here today. You know. But too often when we talk about immigration the debate focuses on our southern border. The fact is we're blessed with -- immigrants from all over the world. Who've put down roots in every corner of this country. Here in San Francisco. 35%. Of business owners are -- Your economy -- -- among the fastest growing in the country. -- -- accident. At the impact that our talented hardworking immigrants can hand. At the difference they can make. They're hungry they're striving. -- -- working hard. And they're creating things that weren't there before. And that's why it is long past time to reform. An immigration system that right now doesn't serve America as well as it should. We could be doing so much more to unleash our potential. If we just fix. This aspect of our system. And I know -- in California. You know you watch -- there was -- reassure the country is not very sunny view of Washington these days. You know for the last few months you've seen a lot of headlines but gridlock and partisan bickering and and too often one faction of one party in one house of congress is chosen. Courses of action that end up harming our businesses our economy. Or workers. Where they want to refight old political battles. Rather than create jobs grow the economy and strength in the middle class. Or take forty more votes undermined or repeal the Affordable Care Act. You know instead of passing a single -- jobs bill. Despite the fact that Americans want us to focus on jobs and business and growth. And by the way thousands of Californians are signing up every day for new health care plans. You know. -- Those were getting bruised our website up to speed. -- -- -- States like California or -- -- the law works. People want the financial security of health insurance. And even if you're already insured reach -- to a friend and neighbor who's not help them get -- When it comes to immigration reform. We have to have the confidence to believe we can. Get this done and we should get it done and by the way most Americans agree. The only thing standing in our way right now. Is the unwillingness of certain Republicans in congress to catch up with the rest of the country. -- may -- other days we the CEOs of -- America's business biggest companies. And I I'm positive not all of them voted for me. I'm pretty -- When some of them. Definitely not all. But. Thank you may want to talk about their top priority was. The fact that we invite the brightest minds from around the world to study here many of them enrolled in the University of California system. In them we don't amount of respect. Wind up sending them home to create new jobs and start a dozen businesses someplace else. So we're training our own competition. Rather than invite. Those incredibly talented young people. Like different. To stay here and start businesses and create jobs here. I hear from folks who've been separated from their families for years because of regard back office desperately want their loved ones to be able to join them here in America. I hear from young -- were Americans through and through in every way but on paper and they just swap. A chance to study and serve and contribute to the nation -- -- life. -- -- business owners who play by the rules but get frustrated because they end up being undercut by those who exploit workers in a shadow economy. Are getting paid overtime -- They're required. To meet the same obligations and so those companies. And up losing out on business. Right now I'm seeing brave advocates who have been fasting. For two weeks in the shadow of the capital. Sacrificing themselves. In an effort to get congress to act. And I -- six. And the -- Medina my friend for meciar you in the other pastors. Were there as we speak. I want them know we hear you were -- The whole country years. From there there are plenty of leaders Democrat and Republican who don't think it's fair that we've got eleven million people in this country including more than a million from Asia. -- no real way to come forward and get on the right side of the law it's not Smart its not fair it doesn't make sense. And we have kick this particular -- down the road long enough everybody knows it. The good news is. We know what the solutions. There is bipartisan hope of getting about. This year the senate passed an immigration reform bill by a wide bipartisan majority and it addresses the key issues that need to be addressed. It would strengthen our borders. It would level the playing field by holding employers accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers. It would modernize our legal immigration system so that we eliminate the backlog of family visas. Make it easier to attract highly skilled -- -- from beyond our borders. It would make sure that everybody plays by the same rules by providing a pathway to earned citizenship. For those were living in the -- The path that includes passing a background check and learning English paying taxes penalties and getting in line behind that everyone trying to come here the right way. And each of these pieces would go a long way towards fixing our broken immigration system. Each of them has been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. There's no reason we can't come together and get it done. And what's more we know about immigration. Reform. There were proposing would boost our economy and shrink our deficits. Independent economists have said that -- that senator bill became law over the next two decades. Our economy would grow by one point four trillion dollars more and it would reduce our deficits black. 850 billion dollars more. And you don't. Be an economist to figure out the workers will be more productive they've got their families here with them. They're not worried about deportations -- not look -- halfway around the world. This isn't just the right thing to do it's the Smart thing to -- Of course just because so many Smart fair good for the economy -- -- -- business labor law enforcement they've leaders. Democratic and Republican governors including the governor this -- just because all that is in place doesn't mean. We'll actually get about because this is Washington after all -- were talking about. And everything's looked through a political -- And look what what's beyond us. Some folks automatic -- we'll hear from Obama's work I've got to be against. Even if I was before. That I was four. But I want to remind everybody. To his great credit my Republican predecessors. President Bush was. For reform he proposed reform like this almost -- decade ago. I was in the senate I joined 43 senate Republicans. Backed and supported reform. It's worth remembering that the senate bill -- just passed one more than a dozen Republican votes this vessel. And some of them even forget that -- Video sometimes people forget I'm not running for office again Michelle doesn't forget. So. I have to worry about this has somehow been good for me this is good for the country. It's the right thing to do for the American people. And I believe ultimately. Not -- in the short term but ultimately good policies good politics. Look at the polls right now because the American people support immigration reform. I clear majority everybody wins if we get this done. So there's no reason we shouldn't get. Immigration reform done right now not. If there is a good -- hurt. And by the way if there's a better plan out there than the one Democrats or Republicans the party advance together. If there additional ideas that would make it even better I'm always willing to listen new ideas my -- always open. But right now it's up to Republicans in the house to decide if we can move forward as a country on this -- If they don't want to see it happen they've got to explain why. The good news there's just this past week speaker Boehner. Said that he is hopeful we can make progress on immigration. And that is good news I believe the speaker is sincere. I think he genuinely wants to get a and that's something we should be thankful for this week and I think there are a number of other house Republicans who also want to get this. Some of them are hesitant to do would have won big bill like the senate -- that's OK -- It's it's Thanksgiving you know we can car that bird in the multiple. Drumstick here. -- -- -- As -- all the pieces get done soon. And we actually deliver on the core values we've been talking about for so long. I think your -- by and where they're not worried about. The procedures they just want the result. But it's going to require some birds there's some. Members the Republican caucus who think this is bad politics form back home. And they're free to vote their conscience vote. What upset the speaker and others -- don't don't what a minority. Folks bought. Something that the country desperately needs. And we can't. Leave this problem for another generation missile if we don't tackle this now. There were undercutting our own future. So my message Stuart congress' rather -- create problems -- left for Washington gets up -- up. This is something that has broad based support. We've been working on it for a decade. This reform comes as close as we've gotten something that will benefit everybody out. Now on for decades to come and it has the potential -- races this country in ways that we can't even imagine. Another I'll just give you one example that through through wrap up and early yesterday whereas in whose whose relatives and various. And there's got an amazing story and who grew up in Vietnam. And he and his four Brothers tried three tough times to flee the unit to the United States. -- -- country was going through all kinds of difficulties. So three times they tried three times they failed. On the fourth -- their boat filled with a 140 refugees they're right -- Was attacked by pirates. But the -- and their family eventually made it to believe Malaysia. And then -- eventually admitted here December answers and they learned English and it worked as handy men they worked as a seamstress us. And eventually Andrew and his Brothers earned enough money to buy a small bakery. -- start making donuts. And they start selling them Chinese restaurants. And with a lot of hard work and a little -- the Sugar Bowl -- today is a sixty million dollar business. He's humble and striving immigrants from Vietnam. Now employed more than 300 -- Americans. There's flying pastries to -- -- and Safeway had almost every hotel hospital in San Francisco. And I don't know -- brought in examples but. You know. -- must be pretty good. And then Anderson -- you know we came here as boat people. So we don't -- take things for granted. We know this is the best country in the world if you work hard. That's what America's about. There's the place where you can reach for something better if you -- part. Is the country our parents our grandparents and waves of immigrants before them built for us. And it falls on each new generation to keep it that way. You know. The statue of liberty doesn't have its back. For the world. That the -- of liberty. Faces the -- And raises its light to the world. When Chinese immigrants came to this city in search of gold they -- looking just for physical riches they were looking for freedom and opportunity. They knew that. What makes us America is not a question of what we look like -- what our names are. Because -- we look like. The world. And he got a -- -- Obama. What makes -- America. What makes us American -- are shared belief. In certain. In during principles. Our allegiance. To a set of ideals. -- -- -- To -- -- during -- promise of this country. And our shared responsibility is to leave this country more generous more hopeful -- we found it and if we stay true to that history. If we get immigration reform across the finish line and it is there just within her -- if we can just. Get folks in Washington go ahead and do what. Needs to be done we're gonna grow our economy we're gonna make our country more secure will strengthen our families. And most importantly we will -- but most importantly we will live up. Most most importantly we it will live up. To our character as a nation. That's that's that's exactly what we're talking about. That's why we're here it. 3COM. Okay from. -- An excellent. Enough slowly. -- Don't worry about it us. I'm we don't have to go let me finish. On on. Look at me -- stay there. Let's let -- And we'll. Pool. I respect the -- of these young. Because -- feel deeply about the concerns for their families. Now what you need to know. What I'm speaking. As from the United States. And I come to this -- him. Is that. If in fact. I could solve all these problems without. Passing laws in congress. But I would do so. But we're also a nation of laws that's part of our tradition. And so the easy way out. Is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something. By violating our laws. And what I'm proposing is the harder which -- -- use our democratic process. To achieve the same goal when you -- achieved. But it won't be any of these there's just shouting. It requires a -- And getting about. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- More combative but getting this done. I am -- -- would you. And -- it would -- every step but the way to make sure that we are well. Coming every striving hard working immigrant. Who sees America the same way we -- As the country where no matter where you are where -- What you look like where you come from you can make it -- try and if you're serious. About making that happen. -- to work when. But it is going to require -- it is not simply a matter of us. Just saying. We're gonna violate the law. That's not our tradition. But the great thing about this country is we have this wonderful process of democracy and sometimes is messy and sometimes is our. But ultimately. Justice and truth -- now that's always been the case country. You very much -- but -- jobless. -- -- The president's -- have this -- there and defusing a heckler. That had interrupted the president near the tail and the closing remarks is being. And as you can see there the president's waving off security detail -- in fact African steak and addressing. The specific concerns. At that young gentleman had salmon -- to specifically about those comments -- also. The top of the speech and not having anything to do with the immigration reform but in fact landmark deal that was reached at the weekend. So for some inside -- want to bring in ABC's very groups in Washington DC and Mary some familiar words. At the top -- the president quoting JFK as he defended the Iran nuclear deal. I want to listen to that. And as the strongest most powerful nation on. The face of the earth we've engaged in clear eyed and principled diplomacy even -- -- -- adversaries. In order to begin to destroy serious chemical weapons. And to place the first real constraints in the decade on Iran's nuclear program. -- I firmly believe in what president Kennedy once -- set. Let us never negotiate out of -- but let us never fear to negotiate. So -- what is the White House strategy and selling that deal. Well there's no question the president faces an uphill battle here trying to sell this pact now to some of the skeptics and that includes lawmakers even some on his own party here in Washington but also. America's closest allies abroad and I think we're gonna see more of what we just on here. He's arguing that it's important. To at least -- negotiate to take this step and there's no question this is absolutely -- a historic pact that they have negotiated here -- tend to just put this breeze for the next six months -- time I'm more time to negotiate a more permanent deal. But as we've seen you know the president going to be out you're speaking out in the country trying to argue that there's this need to negotiate but also he's behind closed doors reaching out directly yesterday. He spoke over the phone with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. To try and ease some of his concerns about the so you know the president actually facing an uphill battle here but doing everything he -- to try and sell this plan. To the American people -- to America's -- that is what. Opened up the speech but he was out there initially to talk about immigration and as we just heard there at the tail end of the -- -- protester demanding that the president and deportations. A reflection of some of the pressure that the president has gotten from the left -- want to play a little bit about what just happened just couple moments ago. Most importantly we will -- but most importantly we will live. Most most importantly we it will live up. To our character as a nation. It. That's that's -- that's exactly what we're talking about. That's why we're here it. -- -- -- What we're. Okay from. -- -- Enough quality. Okay. Don't worry about it. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- It continues on the president does waive off his security detail allowing the -- to stay there. But then -- he essentially goes on to explain why in fact he doesn't have. The power as an executive. To bypass any congressional roadblock for immigration reform. -- Exactly and that's really sort of shows the problem he's facing -- says he wishes he could do it on his own but the problem is that he needs. Congress' help that this has to be something goes through the democratic process that you can't just yell. -- out they're trying to essentially lobby lawmakers and especially. House Republicans to go ahead and act on a comprehensive deal but really weren't there or you're seeing is exactly the problem that the president his administration faces in trying to. To get -- and immigration -- Part of the route through congress it's it was a very tense situation as you're watching to see exactly how that was going to play out because in -- it -- gone. -- very easily that he could have actually had the person removed. But in fact he he addressed it has the heckler was persistent about that and perhaps reflection of just the intensity of the debate that's going on. In Washington DC and obviously how its does address the -- -- -- the country. Actually this pretty rare for the president to gardening -- with a protestor like this also -- that it comes from someone standing behind him like that. The person was standing on the riser behind the president to make it of course even more difficult for the security detail to get their but the president clearly saw the opportunity here. To explain the problem that this helps sort crystallize and get immigration reform passed and so in a way it helps to make his argument for him to engage with what this -- for him to engage with this person trying to explain the problems that they're. Facing -- what is the political calculus then both for Democrats who won big with Latino voters in 2012 and Republicans. Who need to narrow that margin. Absolutely there's no question that there is a huge political risk here for Republicans on one hand they walked a fine line because they want of course you know. Appeal to Latino voters but they also -- -- to their basements I think in many ways that's why. House Republicans for putting forth a piecemeal approach to try and break apart. The comprehensive deal that Democrats and the administration would like to see in trying do this piece by piece so that they can sort of appeal both both -- -- but. The administration as you heard the president continue to say that look you can carve -- company can do it piece by piece but in the end the president wants all the pieces pass and that's the crux of the issue here. -- Florida Republican Marco Rubio initially a backer of a comprehensive deal. He is essentially done an about face recently so how much does that hurt potential of the deal actually going through. And it again this is another thing that sort of helps to show just how typical this really is Marco Rubio was one of those senators that helped to craft a comprehensive bill that was passed. In the democratic senate and now he's saying that -- the piecemeal approach. Is more realistic he says that if you want to get anything done let's focus on the areas where Democrats and Republicans agree and that really is the problem here that you're facing it. Is it all or nothing and Republicans are saying well let's go ahead and at least pass the parts and the pieces that everyone agrees on that if something -- A top Republican California house whip Kevin McCarthy said yesterday that his caucus want to deal didn't offer timeline though. So is is really a priority as another budget battle is coming on the horizon. Well both parties continue to say this is something that they want to get done as the president mentioned house speaker John Boehner just last week said that immigration reform is far from. Dead but and you know it's not. On the schedule yet there's no timeline for that -- the end of the -- -- just a couple weeks away and -- I don't think you're gonna see this some in can be acted on in the coming weeks but definitely. Still a priority for both parties. The president obviously so that he is obviously not running for re election clearly he's on the campaign trail for the same time he is a very vital part of fund raising activities going on at that. So how long have these democratic fund -- been on the books and is such and how is he doing what's the response that. The president is out doing this three day trip in -- has his official events he's out there promoting immigration and some other priorities. This is largely a fund raising trip this is one of several trips he's done in the last few months to get out there and shake the money tree to raise money for democratic candidates. I'm so these -- something that's been on the books for a long time these are high dollar fundraisers. Upwards of 20000 dollars a person. Some big names involved he'll be in LA later today and tomorrow where Magic Johnson is hosting one of the events. I think it's four events in total today with fundraising again yesterday in Seattle so this is on -- the president sneaks in here and there they don't allow cameras into most of them this is something that he's spending a lot of his time dealing. Now so being able to raise some cash obviously that's one of the objectives but at the same -- the president has been known it to be. Sometimes somewhat standoffish she went members of his own party I mean could a gesture like this also be seen as -- -- -- thank you. To those folks who have then -- supported him. Especially through the Affordable Care Act the -- lot of obamacare which he made reference to. At the top of the speech -- -- -- as a bit about we're trying to get this darn website up and running so it still acknowledging the fact that it was not anywhere near clean Rolla that they want it. Yet the president has admitted that that this botched roll artists it's created a big political liability for many Democrats I think it's coming that he mentions all of these fundraisers. Is that they need to get this solved and that it can potentially harm democratic candidates. In the upcoming elections but these are fundraisers that had been on the books for awhile there's no question that he gives the president a chance to thank some of his. Most ardent supporters some of his biggest fundraisers but this is a minute he's been planning to do for a long time he gives him another opportunity. To thank those people and also. To attend -- the importance of getting out and continuing to support democratic candidates even those he mentions he's no longer the top of the ticket. And heading in that sentence or continued fund raising in San Francisco and -- to Los Angeles little later on this afternoon before eventually making its way back to Washington DC. Where you are -- Mary Bruce thank you so much for your time today we appreciate it. We have a complete write up right here and abcnews.com. For -- -- that's where New York with this ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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