President Barack Obama has repeated his claims that sorting out America’s illegal immigrants will take time and hard work, as he responded to a heckler in the crowd at a San Francisco event.

The US leader took time out from his prepared speech after a young man heckled him from the crowd when he shouted: “You have the power to stop deportations for all.”

Addressing the event in Chinatown on the subject of immigration policy and the plight of 11.5 million illegal immigrants, the President addressed the man personally.

He replied: “Actually, I don’t. And that’s why we’re here.”

President Obama added: “The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve – but it won’t be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done.”

The Washington Post reports that hecklers have become a staple at Obama’s public events.

The paper said it is ‘rare that one underscores the message that the president is trying to deliver - in this instance, that the American people support a path to citizenship for those here illegally but that Congress is blocking comprehensive immigration reform.’

The President’s argument in Chinatown on Monday was that overhauling the immigration system would bring an economic windfall for the Bay Area and other communities nationwide.

Speaking at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center, he said 35 percent of business owners in San Francisco are immigrants, many of them Asian Americans.

The President added: “You don’t have to be an economist to figure out that workers will be more productive if they’ve got their families here with them – they’re not worried about deportation, they’re not living halfway around the world.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.”

President Obama used his speech to again urge House Republicans to take up the Senate’s compromise immigration bill.

He told delegates that progress on this front is being held up by a faction of the Republican Party and reiterated his support for a piecemeal approach in the House if that is what it would take to pass a package of reforms.

Obama said: “Just because something is smart, fair, good for the economy and supported by business, labor, law enforcement and faith leaders, Democratic and Republican governors, including the governor of this state – just because all that is in place doesn’t mean we’ll actually get it done because this is Washington, after all, that we’re talking about, and everything’s looked at through a political prism.”