Immigration reform advocates renewed calls on President Obama today to halt deportations of undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the path to citizenship in the proposed Senate reform bill. On a call today, labor and immigrant rights groups said that Obama should get ahead of the immigration legislation by directing the Department of Homeland Security to stop removals of immigrants who could benefit from the legislation.
Obama has previously said that he would not issue a moratorium on deportations, suggesting that such an order could derail the legislative reform efforts by angering Republicans. But representatives of the AFL-CIO, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, and United We Dream, argued today that the introduction of the Senate immigration bill should change the equation: With the perimeters of eligibility for a path to citizenship now clear, the President should get a head start by protecting potential citizens.
“We’re not asking for the president to do something unilateral,” said Thomas Saenz, director of MALDEF. “He can apply quite easily the standards set forth in the bi-partisan committee.”
Speakers on the call rejected Obama’s previous decision to continue deporting non-citizens at a rapid pace while Congress considers the legislation.
“The President is not and con not be a bi-stander in the process,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of NDLON. “He has to intervene” to stop the deportations.
Alvarado added that stopping deportations will create the space for undocumented immigrants to take part in the immigration reform process. “It will give immigrants the breathing room to participate in the process,” he said.
The federal government has carried out well over 1.5 million deportations in the last 4 years. Many of those removed leave behind family in the U.S. Lorella Praeli of the group United We Dream, a coalition that successfully pressed Obama to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy to stop removing DREAM Act-eligible immigrants, says her group wants protections for their family members.
“President Obama has deported more people than any other president and we will not stand by,” she said. “It’s very hard to say that you’re serious about solving the problem while you’re breaking up families.”
About 22 percent of deportees are the parents of U.S. citizen kids, according to data obtained by Colorlines.com. Many others have spouses, parents and undocumented children in the U.S. as well.
Yvette Martinez’s husband was deported to Guatemala last week, even though she says he has no criminal record. The couple was stopped while driving near Springfield, Mass. The Republican, a western Massachusetts paper, reported:
What they thought would be a quick trip to the store for toothpaste turned into a real-life nightmare for Yvette Martinez and her husband, Roger Sabora-Martinez.
The Springfield couple was stopped for a traffic violation by a state trooper on Chestnut Street on Feb. 18, and Sabora-Martinez, 33, was charged with driving without a license and failing to use a turn signal. When he was taken to the state police barracks on Armory Street, it was discovered that Sabora-Martinez is an undocumented resident.
The advocates say they are not asking the President for another Deferred Action program, but rather a stronger guarantee that the Department of Homeland Security will follow its existing guidelines and refrain from deporting so-called low-priority immigrants who have not been charged with a crime and could apply for provisional immigration status under the bill.
The immigration reform legislation is in early stages—the Senate Judiciary Committee began coting on amendments on Thursday—and few think it could become law before the end of the summer. If deportations continue at the rate they have for the past four years, between 100,000 and 150,000 more people could be removed before any undocumented immigrant could apply for immigration papers.