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Obama tells heckler: No executive action to halt deportations

President Barack Obama repeated on Monday that he will not take executive actions to halt deportations of undocumented immigrants, saying that such unilateral action would “violate our laws.”

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Confronted during remarks in San Francisco by a heckler who advocated for an executive order to stop deportations, Obama firmly insisted that he does not have the constitutional power to bypass Congress on the issue.

As the man continued to shout that Obama “has the power” to end these deportations, Obama responded “Actually I don’t. And that’s why we’re here.”

“If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws through Congress, then I would do so,” he added. “But we are also a nation of laws – that’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend that I can do something by violating our laws. 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.”

With few legislative days left before the holiday recess – and with little momentum behind immigration reform efforts in the House despite continued pressure from outside groups – the prospect for action on immigration is likely dead for the year, but it’s conceivable that some legislation could be taken up before the end of the 113th Congress next year.

This summer, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill with bipartisan support. That law would have included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, something that some conservatives decry as “amnesty.”

But House Speaker John Boehner has made clear that the House will not allow any legislation from the lower chamber to be melded or “conferenced” with the Senate bill.

On Monday, Obama said he believes that Boehner is “sincere” in wanting to solve the problem of illegal immigration and that he is open to the GOP’s insistence on passing smaller individual bills with a “step-by-step” approach.

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“It’s Thanksgiving, we can carve that bird into multiple pieces,” he joked. “As long as all the pieces get done soon and we deliver on all the core values we’ve been talking about for so long, I think everybody’s fine. They’re not worried about the procedures, they just want the result.”

The president’s remarks come as polling shows a majority of adults say that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States and apply for citizenship.

A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute on Monday indicated that 63 percent of Americans believe undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship, while 14 percent support allowing them to stay in the United Staets but not become citizens. Just one-in-five said all undocumented immigrants should be identified and deported.