Development & Education

Obama heckler talks about his life as an undocumented immigrant

This story is a part of

Global Nation

This story is a part of

Global Nation


Ju Hong (C) in the audience shouts against U.S. President Barack Obama (L), stopping him temporarily from delivering remarks during event on immigration reform in San Francsico, November 25, 2013.


REUTERS/Jason Reed

UC Berkeley student Ju Hong heckled President Obama asking him to use his power to stop deportations of undocumented immigrants.

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"Mr. Obama our families have been separated for this Thanksgiving. I need your help. You have the power to stop deportation for all undocumented immigrants in this country," he yelled.

Obama responded: "actually I don't. And that's why we are here."

Obama then asked that Hong not be removed from the crowd and remain for the rest of the speech.

Hong was among the group who are selected to stand behind the president.

He says as an undocumented immigrant he was hoping to hear about his plan to address the lives of all the undocumented people in the US, just like his own family. But he says Mr. Obama "failed to address the deportation of many immigrants under his administration."

Thinking about his own family, as well as the many who have been deported or are currently in detention, Hong says he felt compelled to speak out.

Hong's family moved to the US in 2001. After a business they had opened up in South Korea didn't work out, the family decided to move to another country and start a new life.

Hong, his mother and older sister entered US holding a tourist visa. They remained in the country after their visa expired.

"Ever since I came to this country I grew up just like many other American students," he says. "(We) spoke English, joined school government and participated in many student activities."

Hong found out that he was undocumented when he had to fill in his college application.

"There was a section where I had to put my social security number and I didn't know what to put," he says.

He then asked his mother and she told him that the family had come to the US on a tourist visa and remained in the country after it expired. He says he understands that they broke the law, but he believes the system needs change.

Hong says that the immigration problem in the US is not just a Latino issue, but that it's affecting everyone.

"This is a human rights issue," he says.