Last week, more than two dozen House Democrats asked President Barack Obama to suspend the deportation of a vast majority of the undocumented population and to expand a program that grants temporary legal presence.
The letter, co-signed by 29 Congressional members, requested that the President act on halting deportations due to the absence of a permanent immigration system fix. They also hoped that he would expand the Deferred Action program to include the parents of undocumented immigrants who were granted temporary legal presence under a 2012 presidential initiative:
Every deportation of a father, a sister, or a neighbor tears at our social consciousness; every unnecessary raid and detention seriously threatens the fabric of civil liberties we swore to uphold. We are talking about American families and American communities. Criminalizing American families or giving local law enforcement the responsibility to choose who stays and who goes, is not the right option [...]
[...] In fact, taking a strong step toward granting relief would move us in the direction of where the immigration debate rightfully should start, with the legalization of eleven million men and women who call the United States their home. As the debate proceeds, it is necessary to expand the protections of our future citizens that were established by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and grant it to the family and neighbors and all of those who have made their lives here but are yet to be fully recognized.
During the press conference, one of the co-signers Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was keeping reform from a vote.
“We are just one person away from comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.
House Democrats are not the first to call on the President to halt deportations and to expand a deferred action program as they are joining at least “543 faith-based, labor, neighborhood, legal, and civil rights organizations, including the AFL-CIO, MALDEF, United We Dream, and NDLON.”
Advocates have long called on the President to bring about a deportation cessation, with the latest criticism lobbed by an undocumented activist who interrupted the President during a speech on immigration reform. During that exchange, the President explained that he would prefer Congressional action to pass a reform bill that would effectively put a stop to deportations.
“The easy way out is to yell and pretend that I can do something by violating our laws,” Obama said. “But what I’m proposing is the harder path which is to use our democratic process, to achieve the same goals… but it requires us lobbying and getting it done.”
Exempting people from deportation, even temporarily as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program does, would not only test the limits of Obama’s executive power, but perhaps also thwarts efforts of pushing a bipartisan bill through the House. Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have already derided Obama for establishing “amnesty” by using his executive order to create the DACA program.
Obama, for his part, has steadfastly maintained that the only way to achieve a permanent solution is by putting the onus on House Republicans.