WASHINGTON – An alliance of Democratic lawmakers called on President Obama to use his constitutional power to issue a “mass pardon” for undocumented immigrants who were approved for the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In 2012, Obama issued an executive order to allow undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as minors to obtain a renewable two-year work authorization and “deferred action” from deportation.
A group of 64 Democrats signed a new letter to Obama requesting a presidential pardon to protect the roughly 750,000 individuals that were initially approved under the program, which is no longer active. A federal court issued a stay on the expanded DACA program as well as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
“We are simply asking you to protect these young DACA individuals who have committed no crime and who through no fault of their own were brought to the United States with their families in search of a better life,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) in a press conference on Wednesday at the Capitol with other Democratic lawmakers.
“We understand that such a pardon will not grant legal status and that is not the intent of our request,” she said.
Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) compared the request for a presidential pardon of DREAMers to the Christmas season.
“After Jesus was born, an angel came and said take Jesus away – take him to Egypt because Herod wants to kill him. So that angel then became the protector and we’re asking President Obama to be like that angel to save these kids, to step forward with courage in this holiday season and to have the courage to say I am going to do everything I can to help these DREAMers,” he said. “It’s in the tradition not only of the presidency but certainly of the faith community that we know.”
Roybal-Allard vowed to fight any attempts to “rescind” the DACA agreements. “To have these young individuals terrified that the next administration will rescind their DACA agreement is completely wrong and utterly unconscionable,” Roybal-Allard said. “We have a moral obligation to protect them from living this daily nightmare.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said House Democrats have a “special bond” with the DREAMers who came forward to apply for DACA.
“We fought our own president, President Obama, for this initiative and we fought hard,” he said. “We appealed to President Obama to do everything he could to put immigrants in a safe place while he was in office and to start with DREAMers.”
In addition to a mass pardon, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) suggested that Obama “act quickly” and issue an executive order to keep all DACA recipients’ personal information private.
“Forgiving the crime of these DREAMers who were too young to know they were committing any kind of violation can help pave the way for them to apply for legal status,” she said.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said the DACA recipients “have done nothing wrong” and should not be deported to the countries where they were born.
“America should not punish anyone who has not done anything wrong,” he said. “Their parents brought them from different places in the world, but they have only known one country as their home country and that is the United States of America.”