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March 25, 2019

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Blog: President Obama’s landmark immigration speech in Las Vegas


Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Barack Obama speaks about immigration, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. The president unveiled expansive executive actions on immigration Thursday night to spare nearly 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from deportation, setting off a fierce fight with Republicans over the limits of presidential powers.

President Obama Speaks at Del Sol

Michael Nowakowski, a Phoenix city councilman, center, and Eric Chavez, right, community director of the Chavez Institute for Law and Social Justice, react to President Obama's speech at Del Sol High School Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Launch slideshow »

President Obama is using Las Vegas today as a platform to rally national support for his plan to protect millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation.

After announcing the changes Thursday in a primetime address, where he shared the story of Las Vegas immigrant activist Astrid Silva, Obama will elaborate on his plans at Del Sol High School.

It should be a friendly audience. Obama has been to Del Sol twice before, once to talk immigration, and Nevada is a strategic choice politically.

But Republicans in Congress are accusing the president of overreaching. So Obama needs to convince Americans that actions he's taking are legal and the right thing to do. He'll attempt to do that today in Las Vegas.

Why Nevada? Reporters briefed by Obama administration officials on Air Force One asked that question during the flight to Las Vegas. As we've been reporting, the president spoke at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas in January to outline his hopes for an immigration reform bill. Returning there almost two years later underscores how long he's been waiting for Congress to act, said Cecilia Munoz, the director of the president's Domestic Policy Council.​ "Symmetry is a pretty nice idea," she said, according to a pool report from the conversation. "A lot of people remember that moment. That's the moment that launched the Senate debate that produced a bipartisan bill. He's trying to highlight that that is still possible."

Here's a live blog of his trip here.

11:14 a.m.: About 300 people gathered inside the Del Sol gym to wait for Obama to arrive and students are continuing to stream in to fill the bleachers. As supporters gathered inside, protesters gathered outside.

11:40 a.m.: Pro-immigration groups, the Culinary Union Local 226 and students continue to file in while cheering and chanting.

Protesters Come Out for Obama

Patricia Ashworth of Henderson protests before President Obama's appearance at Del Sol High School Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Launch slideshow »

12:10 p.m.,: Air Force One landed at Las Vegas' McCarran Airport. Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat who recently lost re-election to represent North Las Vegas and central Nevada in Congress, was onboard Air Force One to accompany the president from Washington to Las Vegas. Horsford joined Democratic leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi as well as key Hispanic Democrats in Congress for the trip. He's contemplating a run for his old seat in 2016, and accompanying the president to his home state sure is a good start. Rep. Dina Titus, a Las Vegas Democrat, was also on the plan.

12:16 p.m.: The pledge of allegiance.

Click to enlarge photo

President Barack Obama signs two presidential memoranda associated with his actions on immigration in his office, on Air Force One as he arrives at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.

12:27 p.m.: Obama stepped off Air Force One at McCarran. Aboard Air Force One, President Obama signed two executive memorandums that will get the government started on its changes in enforcing immigration laws. The first directs federal agencies to look at ways to improve and streamline the United States' visa system for immigrants. The second creates a White House Task Force on New Americans of federal, state and local stakeholders that will have 120 days to come up with "a strategy to enhance civic, economic and linguistic integration of new Americans," according to the White House press office. Obama is expected to sign more memorandums of his executive actions in Las Vegas today. Many of these will go into effect in the spring.

Click to enlarge photo

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stands next to a sign stating the number of days since the Senate passed immigration reform legislation, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

12:37 p.m,: The president's motorcade pulled into Del Sol High School. Pelosi and Horsford walk into the Del Sol gym. Protesters lined the street outside. Some chanted "Worst president ever, Obama!" Signs said "Impeach Obama" and "No Amnesty" Inside the packed school gymnasium students shouted "Si se Puede!"​

12:46 p.m.: Obama met backstage with immigration advocates, including Ana Rosa Romero.

12:48 p.m.: Astrid Silva, Las Vegas' now famous immigration activist, took the stage to begin the rally and introduce Obama. "This announcement will change so many lives, including my own," Silva said.

12:50 p.m.: Obama takes the stage. He said that Las Vegas is full of people "impassioned that America remains a nation of immigrants" and that "part of what makes America exceptional is that we welcome exceptional people like Astrid."

From the crowd, someone yelled, "Thank you, Mr. President." Obama replied: "You're welcome."

Obama said the Senate passed a compromise immigration bill more than 500 days ago, but the House refuses to take it up. "So, Las Vegas," Obama said, "I've come back to Del Sol to tell you, I'm not giving up. I will never give up." To that, the crowd chanted "Si se puede!" or "Yes, we can!"

1:05 p.m.: Hecklers appeared to have derailed Obama’s speech, a man apparently yelled about people who don't qualify. A crowd tried to drown them out with chants of “Si se puede!"​ Obama said: "I've heard you. Young man, I'm talking to a lot of people here. I've been respectful to you. I want you to be respectful of me."

1:12 p.m.: Obama laid out his argument for executive action in one succinct line: "The bottom line is mass amnesty would be unfair, but mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our contrary's character. What we are offering is accountability." He also said: "This is not just a Latino issue. This is an American issue."

1:13 p.m.: Obama said to Republicans: "Pass a bill." Then the crowd chants: "Pass a bill!."

1:15 pm What's still on Obama's immigration-reform wish list? He wants Congress to pass a bill that would allow for new programs for immigrant farm workers, add visas for high tech sectors and create a pathway to citizenship. "Only Congress can do that," he said. ​

1:23 p.m.: Obama's speech ends. On his way out the door, Obama hugs and shakes hands with Nevada leaders, including Democratic Reps. Steven Horsford and Dina Titus (who flew into Las Vegas on Air Force One with him). He was also surrounded by a mob of iPhone cameras. After Obama cleared the stage at Del Sol, Sen. Harry Reid, who was just off the stage while the president spoke, held an impromptu press conference. In response to a reporter's question about the Nevada Democrat's plans for his 2016 re-election and how this could impact his campaign, Reid grinned.

1:43 p.m.: The official crowd estimate is 1,600. The president continues his media blitz by giving an interview to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos for broadcast on Sunday morning on "This Week.​"

2:35 p.m.: Obama's motorcade leaves Del Sol. Outside the school, a man with a megaphone shouted: "Obama worst president ever!" and "Obama works for the drug cartels!"

3:19 p.m.: The president's motorcade reaches his hotel in Henderson. The exact location was not disclosed.

What's next for President Obama? We know the president will stay two nights in Henderson and has no public events scheduled for Saturday. He is scheduled to fly out of McCarran at 10:40 a.m. on Sunday on his way back to Washington. While in Las Vegas two years ago, Obama stayed at Lake Las Vegas. At the time, the Sun's Conor Shine offered a list of must-see places in Henderson for the president.

Obama and Vegas: Obama has a long history with Las Vegas. In 2009, Obama said corporations using federal bailout money should stop visiting Las Vegas. That made then-Mayor Oscar Oscar Goodman "hotter than fish grease." In 2010, Obama made another critical comment when talking about budgeting in tough times: "You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college." Obama later clarified his comments in a letter to Reid. In summer 2010, he campaigned for Reid at the Aria resort during a two-day Las Vegas visit. In 2012, Obama visited Nevada to pitch clean energy and in 2013 he campaigned for immigration reform at Del Sol High School.