President Obama will not stop the deportation of some undocumented parents by an executive order, he said Tuesday night on the Spanish-language channel Noticias Telemundo. Saying a presidential ban of deportations would be “difficult to defend legally,” Obama rejected suggestions that he could stop the deportation of parents whose undocumented children have been granted temporary legal presence by the Obama administration.
During the televised, exclusive interview with Telemundo reporter José Díaz-Balart, President Obama reiterated that reforming the law is the job of Congress, specifically House Republicans, who have stalled on taking up reform that includes a legalization pathway. While he said that he would consider a piecemeal approach to reform as long as it provides a pathway to citizenship, the President urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to consider giving a floor vote to the Senate immigration bill, which includes provisions for border security and a pathway to citizenship:
DIAZ-BALART: Won’t you at least consider unilaterally freezing the deportation of the parents of Deferred Action kids?
OBAMA: Here’s the problem that I have, Jose, and I’ve said this consistently. My job in the executive branch is to carry out the laws that are passed […]
[…] What we can do is carve out the DREAM Act folks, saying young folks who have basically grown up here are Americans that we should welcome. We’re not going to have them operate under a cloud, under a shadow. But if we start broadening that, then essentially, I’ll be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option.
I do get a little worried that advocates of immigration reform start losing heart and immediately thinking somehow there’s an out here, if Congress doesn’t act, we’ll just have the President sign something and that will take care of it, we won’t have to worry about it. What I’m saying is that there’s a path to get this done and that’s through Congress. And right now, everyone should be focused on making sure that the bill passed out of the Senate hits the floor of the House of Representatives. It’s not like as if the votes aren’t there, the votes are there. The only thing preventing it is that Speaker Boehner has decided that he doesn’t want to call it right now.
The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill before the August recess. But some House Republicans have resisted the measure, and are now raising new reasons to sideline reform for at least the rest of 2013. With hope dwindling that the House will act on immigration reform, some are turning to Obama to stave off imminent deportations.
Hareth Andrade, a 20-year-old undocumented youth, is an immigration activist whose father is facing deportation proceedings after his immigration status was found out during a traffic stop violation.
“[Obama] said before that he couldn’t do it for DREAMers,” Andrade said, before alluding to the DACA program.
“Our parents are DREAMers too,” Andrade said. “There isn’t a difference between my mom working and me going to college. They fought so hard. They feel discouraged.”
This is not the first time Obama has articulated the limits of his power on immigration reform. While Obama has used his executive discretion to grant some temporary relief to undocumented youths, he has repeatedly explained that a more expansive executive action could be legally questionable and imprudent policy at a time when Congress is considering reform.
However, the Obama administration did issue a memo in August that advises Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to consider the parental status of arrested immigrants in deciding whether to detain them. The memo does not halt deportations, but it does allow detained parents to make caretaker decisions for their children.
Like DACA’s implementation, any presidential initiative would also be a temporary fix. The Senate bill includes a permanent solution for dealing with undocumented immigrants and border enforcement– a fix that includes provisions for both parties. Unfortunately, deportation proceedings don’t stop for those like Andrade while Congress sits on reform.
She said, “It’s been scary for me to face this, for us to have to look behind our backs… For my nine-year-old sister, it would just break her heart. We didn’t tell her, at first it was hard. My mom had to tell my sister that my dad had to face the judge and that he might have to go to Bolivia.”
“My mom and I would have to split working jobs. It’s something that scares me because I’m working right now to go to college, but I would have to put that on halt to support my family.”