President Obama told hecklers at an event on immigration reform in San Francisco on Monday that helping the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants "won't be as easy as just shouting," but that he was prepared to "march with you and fight with you" to get legislation passed.
The president was interrupted toward the end of his remarks by a man standing behind him, who urged Obama to end deportations via executive order.
"The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws," the president responded.
In 2012, the Obama administration announced it would stop deporting some illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children, assuming they met certain criteria.
But the White House has maintained that path is not feasible for the nation's entire immigrant population, arguing, as Obama did Monday, that the issue must be addressed legislatively.
When the heckler shouted that the president had the power to "stop all deportations," Obama shot back, "actually, I don't."
The incident came toward the end of an event intended to ratchet up pressure on Republicans to move on an immigration bill that has stalled in the House.
Obama accused the GOP of preventing a vote on the legislation out of political concerns, saying some congressional Republicans "think that 'If Obama's for it, I've got to be against it.' "
"Just because something is smart, fair, good for the economy ... doesn't mean we'll actually get it done, because this is Washington, after all," Obama said.
But the president, noting the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, said supporters of comprehensive immigration reform should be "thankful for" Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) stated support of reform.
He also said that he'd be willing to support Boehner's preferred piecemeal approach if the GOP was unwilling to adopt the Senate's comprehensive bill.
"It's Thanksgiving. We can carve this bird into multiple pieces," Obama quipped.
But while he praised Boehner, Obama also said that the "only thing" preventing reform was the unwillingness of certain Republicans "to catch up with the rest of the country."
"Don't let a minority of folks block something the country desperately needs," he said.
The president has held a series of events in recent weeks with business and faith leaders looking to rally support of traditional GOP allies on the legislation. He also gave a shout-out to labor leaders fasting in protest of inaction on the bill on the National Mall.
"We hear you. We're with you. The whole country hears you," Obama said.
While the meat of the president's remarks was devoted to immigration reform, Obama also touted the deal struck by the U.S. and other world powers with Iran to halt that country's nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanction relief.
Obama said he had delivered on his campaign promise to deliver a "new era of leadership in the world," and chastised critics of the plan as too hawkish.
"We cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world’s problems. We cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of conflict," Obama said. "Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it’s not the right thing for our security."
The president also touched briefly on the implementation of ObamaCare, bragging that "as we're getting this darned website up to speed and it's getting better, states like California are proving the law works."