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Immigration Reform “Office Hours”

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Rep. Lofgren Joins Legal Experts and Advocates to Talk House Floor Action & Potential for Administrative Relief from the Obama Administration

After more than a year of head fakes and false starts on immigration reform that would combine smart enforcement, legal immigration reforms and legal status with a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, the House Republican leadership reverted back to its old tricks this week.  They passed two pieces of legislation designed to keep President Obama from using discretionary authority on immigration and other issues. In case there was any confusion about the intentions and implications of these bills, the House Judiciary Committee explicitly cited the President’s creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers as a reason why both pieces of legislation are needed (see here and here), reminding all of us (as if it wasn’t clear before) that they not only despise the President, but they despise immigrants, too.

“We did indeed have a very spirited discussion this week on two bills.  The Republicans called out two items to be particularly unlawful, deferred action for DREAMers and the extension of parole in place for the families of military members,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on today’s Office Hours call.

When I chaired the immigration subcommittee in 2010, we put together a letter signed by nine Democrats and nine Republicans — some of them very conservative Republicans — asking then Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to extend parole in place for military families.  That the current Republican Leadership would attack this now is unconscionable.  If they were successful in this effort it would result in DREAM Act students and military spouses once again being subjected to deportation.  It has been a disappointing week, but I’m heartened by the response against it.  Most people don’t think it’s right to deport the wife of someone in Afghanistan.

Melissa McGuire-Maniau, a military veteran and board member of Florida Immigrant Coalition, is a prime example of why the government should expand rather than restrict its use of prosecutorial discretion.  Melissa’s husband has been living and working in the United States for over 30 years and despite many petitions and attempts to use the existing routes to grant him legal status, ICE still raided their homes multiple times and tried to deport him in 2011.  After fighting tooth and nail, Hector Maniau was finally granted a reprieve when the Administration announced a new policy to stall the deportation of certain family members of military servicemen and women.

On today’s call Melissa said:

Today I see so many families, suffer the same pain, and it makes me so upset.  It’s bad enough that we’re separating families to the tune of 1100 separations per day – but to do it to veteran families, is even worse.  What is the message we’re sending to our veterans who put their lives on the line for us every single day?  That their sacrifices, and that of their families don’t matter?  Don’t matter enough to preserve the unity of their family?  What the Republican Leadership is doing is just unconscionable.  Instead of being part of the solution, they are being a part of the problem – and that is not leadership!  That is not representation.  And that is not what our country is about!  And as a voter, I am deeply, deeply appalled by their actions.

Meanwhile, as House Republicans delay a vote on real immigration reform, millions of immigrant families pay the price.  On the cusp of deporting more immigrants than any prior President in American History, President Obama responded to pressure from the pro-reform movement yesterday by announcing plans to review current deportation policy.

Said David Leopold, Immigration Attorney and Past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

Prosecutorial discretion is at the core of the American judicial system. Presidents have employed it for generations to devote limited law enforcement resources to the protection of American families and communities. In the immigration context the Obama administration has wisely set forth important enforcement priorities which target terrorists, violent offenders and gang members for deportation, but they need to make sure it’s actually being implemented.  Every day ICE and Border Patrol agents tear hard working undocumented immigrants from their families; people whose removal from the US serves no useful law enforcement purpose. Americans deserve better than nasty partisan politics from the House leadership and they deserve better on immigration policy from the Administration. The deserve solutions which will stop the bleeding of American families.

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Every day this Administration deports 1,100 immigrants, and most would be eligible for legal status and eventual citizenship under legislation supported by this Administration.  This is arbitrary and cruel.  We’re going to continue to press the President and the Administration to extend DACA to millions more people so that we stop the moral crisis of families being separated.  Of course, our top priority is a permanent solution, and that requires Congressional action.  But to date House Republicans have indicated they are more interested in playing politics than in taking up immigration reform.  As hope for legislation fades, the need for executive action grow.  The President needs to step in and act bold and act now.

To listen to a recording of today’s Office Hours, click here.

For recordings and resources from prior Office Hours calls, click here.