Immigration advocates are appealing to President Obama to exercise his executive power and stop the deportation of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the country while Congress is at a standstill on immigration reform. At present, over 1,000 undocumented immigrants are being deported per day. Last year, more than 400,000 were deported.
President Obama changed his policy on deportation last year and deferred the deportation of thousands of young people who were illegally brought into the country as children. Over 455,000 undocumented young people have so far been granted deferred action.
This time, however, President Obama, in an interview, indicated that he cannot change his policy on enforcement nor expand the coverage of the deferment program. He also told progressive and labor leaders in a meeting that he cannot ease enforcement because his priority is to push for the passage of the immigration reform bill. According to an advocate, the goal is “getting the immigration reform passed, and that solves the problem – not starting a whole controversy as to whether he is easing up.”
Meantime, the President instructed the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division to focus on the deportation of felons and multiple offenders. Advocates say that the ICE and the Department of Homeland Security continue to deport undocumented workers who are without any criminal record and are separated from their families. Last month, however, ICE issued a directive advising agents “to keep enforcement actions from unnecessarily impacting parents and primary caregivers.”
The President’s refusal to stop mass deportations has prompted immigration advocates to launch campaigns to demonstrate their frustration and disappointment. Seven undocumented workers affiliated with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network recently held a protest, handcuffing themselves at the gates of the White House and carrying signs with the words, “Mr. President Stop Deportations.”
Chris Newman, legal director of the same organization behind the protest expressed his concern saying, “There’s a clear contradiction in the president’s position right now. He’s saying either the House Republican’s will come around on the path to citizenship, or I’ll be forced to keep deporting people. And that’s an untenable position.” Advocates maintain that the president has the power to stop deportations and are determined to keep challenging him.
Meanwhile, advocates are also intensifying their campaigns to pressure Congress to pass the immigration reform bill. Thousands of people are expected to join a rally and a concert at the doorsteps of Congress on October 8.
The House Republicans’ refusal to bring the immigration reform bill to the floor has increased the frustration of the immigrant community. Although many are “losing heart” with the bill being sidelined for many reasons, immigration advocates will not stop pushing for the overhaul of nation’s immigration system. As Jaime Contreras of the Service Employees International Union pointed out, “It’s time for Republican leaders to start standing up to the extremists and let them know that inaction is not an option for us. We will not stop until we win this fight.”