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The President’s Actions on Immigration Will Speak Louder than Words

by Frank Sharry on 04/29/2011 at 1:07pm

obama immigration meetingYesterday, the President met with Latino celebrities and news personalities to talk about his push for comprehensive immigration reform.  This followed a similar meeting with other leaders last week, a meeting which I attended. 

As many have pointed out, these aren’t the first meetings the White House has held on immigration, and they certainly won’t be the last. 

At our meeting, the President made it clear he is willing to use the political capital he has to make the case for immigration reform that can fix our nation’s dysfunctional immigration system in a way that ends illegal immigration.  He brought together a number of unusual allies – including former Republican officials and elected leaders, business representatives, mayors, law enforcement leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders from across the political spectrum and civil rights leaders – and asked for their assistance.  Their engagement will be critical to creating more political space for a policy breakthrough.  In particular, pro-reform Republicans must challenge their allies in Congress to work on this issue on a bipartisan basis or the immigration system will remain broken forever.

Although it is undeniably true that we need congressional action to enact a lasting solution, there are many things the Obama Administration can and must do now to make the system work better for families, workers, businesses, and the country.

At both meetings, there was a discussion with the President about the fate of the DREAMers, young people who came to the U.S. as children and are American in every way but their citizenship. The President reiterated his strong support for the DREAM Act and urged us to engage Republicans so that the bill can finally become law.  We all agree that passing DREAM is essential.  But there is more the Administration can do to end the deportation nightmare for DREAMers until Congress finally passes this important bill.  

The President has the authority to end the deportation of DREAMers, and even grant affirmative, temporary relief (“deferred action”) to these smart and talented young people who have grown up in America and know no other home.  As my colleague, Maribel Hastings, explains, “’deferred action’ includes a stay of deportation and (potentially) the opportunity for a work permit.  It DOES NOT provide firm legal status and can be revoked at any point.”  Earlier this month, 22 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the President expressing their support for granting “deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements for . . . the DREAM Act.”  They agree that our nation is better served by allowing these individuals to go to college, join the military, and work legally than remain in the shadows under threat of deportation.

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