Top Latino lawmakers have been lobbying the Obama administration to enact specific executive actions on immigration, according to a memo obtained by BuzzFeed.
Sent by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in April, the document outlines five executive actions President Obama could take, including the expansion of the program that allowed undocumented immigrants brought by their parents into the country as children to stay here legally.
Obama announced Monday he will take executive action on immigration later this summer. The leaked document, obtained from a source close to the CHC, is just an early instance of what will likely be weeks of jockeying by lawmakers and activists about what Obama should do on deportations, how far he should go, and when.
The CHC memo to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson includes five suggestions for administrative actions the president can take, along with six suggestions for “humane” enforcement reforms the DHS can make.
Chief among the executive actions would be an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), beyond undocumented youth known as DREAMers who received it initially, for undocumented immigrants who are low-priority American workers and those who would benefit from the Senate’s immigration reform bill.
The memo also calls for an expansion of “parole in place” to more undocumented immigrants, which would temporarily protect them from removal and provide them the ability to work in the country. The lawmakers give the example of a deferred action recipient who marries a U.S. citizen and doesn’t have to leave the country to apply for a green card.
The letter to Johnson also suggests forgiving immigrants who have had periods of unlawful presence in the U.S. despite now having a certain lawful status.
The memo also seeks to keep nuclear families together or unify them by extending humanitarian parole to the family members of DACA recipients, including some who have already been removed from the country.
Lastly, it recommends administrative action that would allow undocumented immigrants with certain legal status to enlist in the military.
The suggested enforcement reforms include clarifying the extreme hardship waiver, refining prosecutorial discretion, limiting deportations without hearings — and a big one — ending the controversial Secure Communities program that facilitates detention, finger printing and deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Sen. Bob Menendez, who previously announced support of stopping deportations for the immediate families of U.S. citizens, DREAMers, and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) at the National Council of La Raza’s 2014 Capital Awards Gala in March, supports the leaked CHC memo.
“Sen. Menendez fully supports the recommendations made by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus,” Juan Pachon, his deputy communications director, said in a statement to BuzzFeed.
“In light of House Republicans’ intransigence, Sen. Menendez has encouraged President Obama to use his executive powers, particularly to expand the Deferred Action program to stop or suspend the deportation of families and long-term residents.”
The president previously called for a meeting with the CHC after it was set to release a memo with demands on him to slow deportations in March. When they voiced concerns, he told them to bring their suggestions to Johnson.
The leaked memo is a window into the CHC demands, just days after Obama’s announcement that he will pursue administrative actions alone because House Republicans refused to move forward with legislation a year after the bipartisan Senate bill passed.
“The antidote for do-nothingism is doing something, and the president is doing for the American people what the Republican-controlled Congress refused to do,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez said after Obama’s announcement.
“This is the president I voted for,” Gutierrez said. “The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has already submitted a list of actions he can take under current law to add some rationality to our irrational immigration system, and I look forward to working with him to vet those ideas and others he can take to help the American people.”