Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Friday that if House Republicans don’t act on immigration reform legislation before the July 4 recess, President Barack Obama should take steps outlined in a new memo to stop deportations. This comes as pressure is mounting on Obama to take executive action to stop deportations.
“Come July of this year, the president will pick up the pen in his hand and be ready to sign legislation — which is what we want and is our ultimate goal — and if there isn’t, he can begin to sign those prosecutorial discretion memorandums,” Gutierrez said in a conference call with reporters Friday.
The Illinois congressman was referring to a memo that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will present in a meeting with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday.
The memo lists steps the Obama administration can take to suspend or delay the deportations of undocumented immigrants who would qualify for legalization under the immigration reform bill the Senate approved last June.
Among those steps is expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to benefit more undocumented immigrants, not just Dreamers. Obama announced the federal program last year. It grants Dreamers authorization to stay and work in the United States for a renewable period of two years.
Several media outlets, including The Washington Post, obtained a draft of the memo. They’re reporting that it also calls for the Obama administration to expand parole to protect immediate relatives of U.S. citizens from being deported. Furthermore, it also calls for allowing individuals who’ve been forced out of the country to return to the U.S. and be granted humanitarian parole.
“Our goal in the Hispanic Congressional Caucus is to save as many people as we can from the devastating effects of deportations,” Gutierrez told reporters Friday.
National day of action to call for deportation relief
The memo comes several weeks after Obama announced in a meeting with CHC members that he was directing his administration to review deportation policies in order to find “more humanely” ways to carry out enforcement efforts.
It also comes as immigrant rights advocates plan to host a national day of action on Saturday to escalate their efforts in calling on Obama to stop deportations. Some 80 events are scheduled to take place all across the country.
“We want to move the president to be the champion that he was elected to be and not the deporter-in-chief that he has become,” said Tania Unzueta, an organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
One of the actions happening Saturday will take place in front of the White House, where family members of two men who were recently deported and are currently detained in Arizona after coming back to the U.S. this week will be asking Obama to meet with them and to release their loved ones from detention.
Another action will take place in Arizona where a group of people will conclude a three-day walk from Phoenix to the Eloy Detention Center. Their goal is to expose the human cost of deportations.
A full list of events happening on Saturday can be found on the #Not1More campaign’s website. Unzueta said the events are part of a broader push by the #Not1More campaign aimed at pressuring Obama to stop deportations.
“It’s important to say that we’re not doing this because we think immigration reform is dead, but because we believe that this is an important step that needs to be taken morally and politically,” she said.
Gutierrez echoed Unzueta’s message, saying House Democrats should continue to advocate for immigration reform while also pushing Obama to do something about deportations.
“We need to work on both fronts,” he said. “Being a good Democrat, being a good member of the House of Representatives means working on both of those issues simultaneously.”