Immigration Advocates Ask Obama to Protect DREAMers
s Barack Obama’s tenure in office enters its final 60 days, immigration advocates are asking the President to protect undocumented immigrants that could be deported under Donald Trump’s new administration.
Democratic members of Congress are asking Obama to go as far as pardoning hundreds of thousands of individuals that applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. DACA was meant to provide a pathway to citizenship for children that were brought to the US illegally before they were 16 years old. The program was enacted in 2012 by a presidential executive order, and is based on a federal bill that stalled in the US Senate in 2001, called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM bill.
“We know that there is no case law on the idea of giving a prospective pardon for a civil offense, but these kids took a risk and we ask President Obama to take a risk as well,” Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a former immigration attorney, said. “These kids deserve everything we can do to keep them safe from deportation,” Congressowoman Lofgren added.
The new calls for protection for the so-called DREAMers have come in the past month since Donald Trump’s election. Immigration advocates fear Trump’s call for mass deportations could start with DACA applicants that gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) all of their personal information when applying for the deferred deportation program, including fingerprints, home addresses, and background information.
“Dreamers who came forward to enroll in President Obama’s DACA initiative could have their addresses and personal data handed to an incoming administration that made intimidation and hateful statements against immigrants a hallmark of the campaign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “President Obama should use every possible measure to protect our Dreamers and their data.”
The Obama Administration has said they are working with the incoming Trump staff to explain the importance of existing programs, but have cautioned that the next president is free to make changes to any policies.
“We’ve taken quite seriously the transition process to ensure the incoming administration understands what policies we’ve pursued and why we’ve pursued them, and what impact they’ve had across the country,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this week. “But ultimately the next president will take office on Jan. 20, and it’s his policies that will be implemented.” Earnest said.
A letter sent this week to President Obama signed by 60 members of Congress also asked him to grant pardons for all children that filed for the DACA program.
The letter challenges the White House’s statements that a pardon would not grant legal status to the 750,000 DACA applicants, and contends that the pardons could clear the way for legal status applications by DACA filers in the future by clearing the violations of immigration laws from their records.
“The Constitution specifically does not limit the pardon power to criminal offenses,” the one page letter reads. “We ask for the narrow reprieve of a retroactive and prospective pardon of categorical civil immigration violations for a unique group of young immigrants who have placed their trust in both you as their president and us as their lawmakers. To be clear, we are not asking you to ‘create legal status.’ ”
The letter was signed by Congress members from around the country, including San Diego Congressman Juan Vargas, as well as civil rights champion Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960s.
“We believe that this action is critical, although it does not create legal status, because for many DREAMers it could clear a path to a legal status that already exists under current law,” the letter states. “Therefore we urge you to reconsider and exercise your Constitutional authority to provide pardons to young people that are Americans in every way but on paper,” the letter concludes.