Some In Las Vegas Not Sold On Obama's Immigration Pitch

Nov 22, 2014
Originally published on November 23, 2014 8:12 pm
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TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

President Obama laid out his case this week for shielding up to 5 million immigrants, who are now in the country illegally, from deportation. Yesterday, he spoke in the gymnasium of a Las Vegas high school to a crowd that included many who will be saved from that fate by his executive action.

In Washington, Republican lawmakers are harshly criticizing the president's unilateral move, and they're not alone. NPR's Nathan Rott reports from Las Vegas.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: While President Obama was speaking inside the packed gym at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, scores of people stood outside...

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

ROTT: ...Holding signs that read No Amnesty and Emperor Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Obama is a liar.

ROTT: Robin Hvidston had been outside the school since dawn.

ROBIN HVIDTSON: A travesty that the United States President is here advocating for people in our country illegally when the citizens are in dire straits in this country.

ROTT: The reasons people gave for protesting ran the gamut, but a few themes stood out. Hvidston's was one - that Obama should focus on helping the country's legal citizens. Another - fear that by giving amnesty to even some of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally the president is inviting others to come. For many, last summer's surge of children at the Southern border is still fresh in the mind. Perhaps the most common theme, though, was the one shared by Eric Saenz, who carried a sign reading Impeach Obama.

ERIC SAENZ: He needs to be impeached because this is usurping Congress.

ROTT: And he says, for overstepping his bounds, ignoring the message American voters sent earlier this month when they elected Republicans into the majority of both houses of Congress. Saenz, whose family migrated from Mexico legally, says Obama's actions will hurt working-class people like him.

SAENZ: Those laws aren't there to protect rich white people. They're there to protect everybody. Those laws are what keep our government from going rogue.

ROTT: Criticism of Obama came from another corner, too - people who felt like he didn't go far enough, as the president found out during his remarks inside the gym...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The truth is...

ROTT: ...When a young man in a blue shirt with the word undocumented printed on it interrupted, saying that Obama's actions left millions of immigrants out.

OBAMA: That's right. Not everybody will qualify under this provision. That's the truth. And that's the truth. That's why we're still going to have to pass a bill. That's why we're still going to have to pass a bill.

ROTT: That man was Jose Patino. This is him outside.

JOSE PATINO: He can do so much more, because, you know, half my uncles are going to qualify, my parents are not.

ROTT: Patino is not a U.S. citizen so his parents won't be protected under the president's new plans.

PATINO: I don't know. I'm being selfish or whatever. I just can't celebrate, because we worked so hard, and the people that I care about is not going to be protected. I just can't celebrate that.

ROTT: Nathan Rott, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.