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NYT: DREAMers Press President Obama For Executive Action

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As Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) introduces the STARS Act and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) makes headlines discussing his alternative to the DREAM Act, DREAM Act-eligible youth are letting President Obama know that the ball is in his court, and it’s time to weigh in, too.

A must-read written by Julia Preston in the New York Times today details how the United We DREAM network is stepping up the call for executive relief from deportation.  They’re asking the President to use his powers of discretion to protect them and their families.  As the article explains:

Young illegal immigrants, saying President Obama has done little to diminish the threat of deportations they face despite repeated promises, have started a campaign to press him to use executive powers to allow them to remain legally in the country.

The campaign is led by the United We Dream Network, the largest organization of young immigrants here illegally who would be eligible for legal status under a proposal in Congress known as the Dream Act.

The young people are among the most visible activists in a growing immigrant movement. Their push to focus pressure on the White House reflects deep frustration with Congress for its lack of action on the legislation and with the administration for continuing to deport illegal immigrant students, although Mr. Obama says he supports them.

This week student leaders presented White House officials with a letter signed by more than 90 immigration law professors who argued that the president has “clear executive authority” to halt deportations of illegal immigrants who might benefit from the student legislation. The professors, from universities across the country, pointed to several measures the president could take under existing laws to defer deportations and permit young immigrants to stay temporarily.

On May 17 the students held small-scale actions to publicize their demands in 19 locations around the country, including at the Obama re-election campaign offices in Miami. Gaby Pacheco, a leader of the student network, said Wednesday that they were preparing larger protests for mid-June if the White House did not respond.

“They say all the time that Dreamers shouldn’t be deported,” Ms. Pacheco said, referring to the young immigrants. “We’ve heard a lot of talk, but we have not seen action.”

The students’ escalating actions could be a problem for Mr. Obama, who is counting on strong support from Latino voters to win again in several states that supported him in 2008, particularly Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico. Polls show very high support among Latinos for some version of the Dream Act,  including  91 percent in the 2011 National Survey of Latinos from the Pew Hispanic Center.

The law professors’ letter, which reads like a legal brief, was intended as a response to administration officials who have said Mr. Obama does not have the authority to issue a reprieve for large groups of illegal immigrants. One measure they cite was used by President Jimmy Carter to admit thousands of Cubans to the United States in 1980, during the mass exodus known as the Mariel boatlift.

“We did not want doubt about the president’s legal authority to muddy the waters of the debate,” said Hiroshi Motomura, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was an author of the letter.

Young illegal immigrants say they are impatient because each year more of them graduate from high school and cannot attend college because of high tuition rates and barriers to financial aid they face because of their status. More recently, students who did attend college are graduating and facing larger obstacles because they cannot legally work in the United States.

“It’s not a question of whether the president can or can’t, “ said Lorella Praeli, 23, a student from Peru here illegally who also is a leader of the immigrant student network. “It’s a question of whether he will or he won’t.”

Yes, that is the question.

Read the rest of the New York Times piece here.