Faith Leaders Press President Obama to Pardon Immigrants, Nonviolent Offenders

By Kenrya Rankin Dec 15, 2016

In the five weeks since the election, a group of faith leaders has been collecting signatures nationwide, hoping to make major changes to the criminal justice and immigration systems before Donald Trump takes office. Today, they hope those signatures will push President Barack Obama to take action.

Members of the PICO National Network will march from the AFL-CIO headquarters to the White House today at 2 p.m. ET to ask the president to grant clemency to people incarcerated on low-level federal drug offenses and issue pardons for undocumented immigrants.

From the petition:

Granting federal clemency for individuals with a nonviolent, low-level drug offense due to the War on Drugs would give thousands of individuals—primarily people of color who were disproportionately impacted by harsh sentencing policies—a second chance.

Pardoning civil immigration infractions such as visa overstays, unlawful employment or unlawful entry would keep our families from being broken apart by mass deportations.

Though there is much we do not know, we do know what President-elect Trump has promised. And from his first appointments, we know what is likely to happen.

Our faith calls us to use the full measure of our power to protect our neighbors and friends at this moment of crisis, and our future depends on it!

The petition had more than 3,600 digital signatures at press time.

President Obama partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014 and pledged to used his power of clemency to provide relief for people serving unduly harsh sentences. To date, he has commuted sentences for 1,374 people, and pardoned 70 others. In 2016 alone, he commuted 1,023 sentences, setting a new annual record for all sitting presidents. PICO’s proposed actions would impact millions of undocumented immigrants and people in prison for drug offenses.

“The sacred texts of most faith traditions compel us to resist a false hierarchy of human value, and to see and love one another through our differences,” Richard Morales, immigration policy director for PICO, said in an emailed statement. “In this historical moment, and in this toxic climate where hateful rhetoric appears to spread like wildfire, this is a particularly sacred obligation. Responding in this moment means raising our voices in support of vulnerable families and pushing President Obama to use his powers to protect those who will be most impacted when he leaves office.”