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Two Immigration Truths: Only Congress Can Provide Permanent Solution, But President Can and Should Deliver Executive Relief

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Yesterday, President Obama met with religious leaders on the topic of immigration reform.  A White House statement issued following the meeting noted that President Obama “emphasized that while his Administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress.”

This is undeniable – but it’s not a response to what the immigrant community and activists are really calling for from the White House.  While continuing to fight for a lasting immigration solution that Congress can and should provide, we are calling for affirmative relief for those who would qualify for the Senate bill and for enforcement reforms to rein in the abuses and excesses of deportations under President Obama.  Below, we offer a reminder of two essential truths to keep in mind regarding immigration activism, reform, and culpability:

1.      Only Congress Can Deliver a Permanent Solution Through Immigration Reform Legislation – and House Republicans are Shamelessly Blocking that Solution:  House Republicans are inexplicably blocking immigration reform in what amounts to a massive moral, policy, and political failure.  Yesterday’s news that Democrats are turning up the heat on 30 House Republicans who have pledged support for immigration reform but are refusing to force a vote on reform, is another reminder that a lasting fix to our broken immigration system is within reach if not for House Republicans’ refusal to schedule a vote and stand up to its Steve King wing.  What’s more, House Republicans’ obstruction of immigration is at odds with many Republican voters and core constituencies. It has led to a series of illogical and transparent excuses for inaction, such as Speaker John Boehner’s recent comments.  Ultimately, the Republican failure to address immigration will be to their political detriment in 2016 and beyond.

2.      President Obama Can and Should Deliver Executive Relief – Independent from Congressional Inaction: The New York Times recently assessed that “since President Obama took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.” These are immigrants who would qualify for legal status and citizenship under the Senate bill, and yet the Obama Administration continues to deport them rather than use its authority to protect these American immigrant families. Even U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said last week that the notion the White House cannot take action on deportations is, “ridiculous.”  And Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy for United We DREAM, writes in USA Today, “Yes, it’s past time for House Republicans to act.  However, executive action should proceed independently from what is not happening on Capitol Hill.  Only Congress can enact a solution.  But Obama is the head of the executive branch and its immigration enforcement agencies.  He has the demonstrated discretion, legal authority and moral responsibility to deliver relief now.”

In his June 2012 Rose Garden announcement of the deferred action program for DREAMers, President Obama called DACA, a “temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people…Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act.”  The same principles and assessment applies to the current situation as House Republicans continue to block reform.

Patty Kupfer, Managing Director of America’s Voice said:

We agree. A permanent immigration solution can only be enacted by Congress and we will continue to hold House Republicans accountable for obstructing legislation. But in the absence of that reform, the President can and should take bold executive action. Period.