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DREAM Act Youth and Experts Call on President to Use Established Authority to Halt Deportations

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Young People Describe How their Lives Would Change if the President Followed Senators’ Request

Washington – Today on a press call, DREAM Act youth and immigration experts described the established legal authority of the President to halt the arrest, jailing and deportation of young people who would be eligible for the DREAM Act.  Speakers provided examples of how President Obama and previous presidents have used similar authority in the past.  The young people on the call shared their personal stories and pledged that their communities would hold the President accountable if he continues to refuse to provide this relief.

This past Wednesday, 22 Democratic Senators issued a letter to President Obama in which they wrote that they “would support a grant of deferred action” and other measures to grant relief to qualified DREAM students. The letter also reiterated the senators’ support for the DREAM Act, which passed the House of Representatives and received the support of 55 Senators last December, yet failed to receive the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster and become law. 

Tyler Moran, Policy Director at the National Immigration Law Center, spoke about the DREAM Act youth who live in fear of deportation every day.  “These students are Americans at heart and know no other country but the United States.  And even though the DREAM Act fell victim to partisan politics last fall, there is still a need for immediate relief to allow these students to contribute to the country they love.  The President recognized in his State of the Union that we should stop deporting these young people, so we now join these 22 Senators in asking the President to grant that relief.”

Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, explained, “The actions the Senators have requested are entirely within the President’s well-established authority.  Every law enforcement agency in the country uses prioritization and discretion when making decisions about how to prioritize their work and allocate resources.  The President has the authority to grant relief to an entire class of people, such as the relief that President Obama granted to a group of Liberians, among other examples.”

Young people who would be affected by presidential action spoke about how their lives would be improved by an executive order to halt deportations.

Maria Marroquin, a graduate of Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania, said, “I’ve lived in the US for 10 years and I’ve worked hard to receive good grades, but after the failure of the DREAM Act in Congress, I am looking to the President for leadership. There are a lot of students out there afraid of being detained, deported to countries we do not know, and separated from our families. Having the president say he would not target us would alleviate some of the burden we feel every day. The ball is in the President’s court.  Personally I’m ready to hold him accountable to his decision, and I’ll make sure the Latino community holds him accountable as well.”

“After living in the US for 17 years now, I have been working full time just to pay for my education and contribute to the economy–and yet I live in constant fear of deportation,” said Rigo Padilla, senior at the University of Illinois, Chicago.  “Twenty-two senators showed their courage this week, and now President Obama to has the authority to answer those calls.  We thank the President for his support of the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, but now we need action, not just words.”

Karen Maldonado, a high school senior from Miami, FL who is now in deportation proceedings, underscored the importance of Presidential action. Following the President’s declaration last month that the “notion that we are rounding up students is completely untrue,” Ms. Maldonado told the President on national television that she was, in fact, rounded up by immigration authorities and jailed, and is now in deportation proceedings.  On the call today, Ms. Maldonado told her story, saying, “After being detained in January, I worry daily that I will not be able to finish my education and contribute to the country.”

Gaby Pacheco from Miami, FL, who holds two college degrees, underscored the need for administrative action.  “It is wrong to put these students, who have done nothing wrong, into deportation hearings.  Congress has asked for administrative relief, youth has asked for administrative relief, and now we need the President to act. During the 2008 campaign, the President would use the phrase ‘Si, se puede!’ Today we would like to tell the president that yes, you can—you can be the leader that our community is asking you to be.  I know that during the Bush Administration it was easier to ask for deferred action; today, it takes a national campaign, and President Obama is granting fewer deferred actions. That is wrong.”

Read a Copy of the Democrats’ Letter to President Obama.