By Justin Sink - 11/25/13 06:00 PM EST
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.
"We're a nation of laws, that's part of our tradition," he added. 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.
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.