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Rep. Luis Gutierrez, David Leopold on Why Obama Must Act on Immigration Now

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Rumors have swirled this week that President Obama may delay his expected executive announcement on immigration until after the midterms.  Such a move would be devastating to families like Pedro’s, who are in danger of losing their father to deportation even though he is the family’s caretaker and is responsible for their 25-year-old son, who has severe cerebral palsy.  If Obama waits to take action, relief could come too late for immigrants like Pedro.

Op-eds today from immigration attorney David Leopold and Rep. Luis Gutierrez call Obama out for his promises on immigration.  As the excerpts below explain, it’s time for Obama to take action now.

From David Leopold, immigration lawyer and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, on why Obama cannot afford to break another promise on immigration:

If the president truly views “immigration rights” with the same reverence he does the rights of minorities, women, and LGBTs then how can he morally, ethically or politically justify not using his constitutional authority to fix the system where he can?  Did President Kennedy, postpone confronting Gov. George Wallace at the University of Alabama when he tried to block the admission of African American students in 1962 before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act?

It’s also a question of integrity.  The president stood in the Rose Garden on June 30, lambasted the House GOP for refusing to take up immigration reform, and promised that he would “act without delay” once he received recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s a promise Obama cannot afford to break.

Those words resonated loudly among Latino voters, nearly a quarter of whom have a relative or friend who’s been detained or deported by the Obama administration.  Latinos remember that in 2008 candidate Obama promised he would champion immigration reform during his first term in office, but then he broke his promise and deported two million people.  They remember that June 2012 when he needed support for his reelection, Obama apologized to the Latino community, granted a deportation reprieve to young undocumented immigrants, and again promised he would fix the immigration system if he was reelected. And Latinos remember that the president was reelected with over 70 percent of their vote.

It’s true that the president is under pressure from some in his own party to wait until after the midterm election to act on immigration.  They believe it’s  the “safe” thing to do. But voters actually prefer politicians who keep their word, exercise leadership, and take chances over those who play it safe.  And the political considerations are far less salient than the moral imperative of doing what the President knows is right—using his executive authority to blunt the harshness of an outdated, rigid, anti-family immigration law.

The president has been called the “Deporter-in-Chief,” and after six years of relentless deportations, his legacy is surely on the line.    If he wants to be remembered for an immigration record other than record deportations, he must keep his word to the American people and do what he can to make the immigration system work—without delay.

From Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) about why Obama should lean in on immigration:

It is time for my timid colleagues to get out of the way and let the president take action. President Obama should lean in and take executive action on immigration – now. I think he should make clear what Democrats stand for, and I know the nation will gravitate to our party in the midterms because of it.

We cannot be a pro-immigrant party only when it is convenient. The Democrats cannot say that we stand with immigrants if that secretly means we only stand with immigrants in odd-numbered years or when southern Democrats complain.

We should be transparent and act before Election Day, so voters do not feel duped or tricked. If we wait until after the election – especially if we are going to lose seats, as predicted – it will seem like sour grapes. But, really, the president would be following through on action he previewed back in January, when he said he would use his pen and phone to act if Congress refused to

Already, it’s clear that Republicans are banking on a lot of older, more affluent voters to come out and vote for them because of how they feel about President Obama. But who else will be motivated to vote? Will young people, women and labor-union members – those who have been solidly behind deportation relief for undocumented immigrants – find a compelling reason to vote? Will they be motivated to defend a president who is under attack for having taken action on an issue they care about deeply? Will Asian and Latino citizens pull the lever for Democrats because we are the lesser of two evils, or because we offer real solutions when Republicans refuse to do so?