Immigrant Advocates Call on Obama to Be Brave and Swift

Photo: NAM.

Photo: NAM.

By Pilar Marrero

President Barack Obama made it clear that he would take administrative action very soon to fix the immigration system in the absence of a legislative solution in the House of Representatives. Immigrant rights groups are calling on him to take “courageous and meaningful steps.”

Among the steps the president could take, they say, are expanding deferred action (DACA) beyond young undocumented students; and reviewing deportation priorities to prevent the removal of those who have lived in the country for years, have U.S.-citizen minor children and have no criminal record.

Leaders of immigrant rights groups outlined these measures to Obama in a recent meeting before he announced that he would implement a series of actions as soon as he receives recommendations from the Secretary of Homeland Security this summer.


What Obama said

“I have been consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with [House leadership] even on a bill that I don’t consider perfect,” Obama said Monday. “The only thing I can’t do is stand by and do nothing while waiting for them to get their act together.”

But in order to enact real change, the president must be courageous and act quickly, according to Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), one of the groups that has long been an advocate for administrative action.

Instead of fixing superficial details of the immigration enforcement machine, Hincapié said, the president must create a system that truly embraces these immigrants as part of our society.

Erika Andiola of the Dream Action Coalition added that the president must respond to the requests of the community and “expand DACA.”


Expanding DACA

Peter Schey, director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Los Angeles, recently explained that Obama could grant deferred action status, similar to that granted to half a million undocumented youth, to some 2 million people who qualify but aren’t able to legalize their status because they’ve been living in the country without papers and are subject to a 10-year bar. Schey said that Obama could give deferred action to at least six additional groups of people, including parents of U.S. citizens under 21, parents of DACA recipients, immigrants with closed administrative cases who are in limbo and all immigrants who entered the United States under the age of 16, regardless of their current age.

Schey suggests fixing the problem of legal status by giving those immigrants DACA status and then granting them a permit so they can leave the country. That way, he said, when they return to the country, they already have legal entry status and can adjust normally.

But immigrant rights leaders such as Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), are also hoping that President Obama will “maximize” his existing authority to stop injustices in the current system.

Source: New America Media

Translated by Elena Shore

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