WASHINGTON- Immigration advocates called on President Barack Obama Tuesday to issue an executive order to prevent more immigrants from being deported.
The National Day Laborer Organization Network and a group of undocumented immigrants filed an official petition asking the Department of Homeland Security to suspend deportation of immigrants who would benefit from the passage of immigration reform bill, if one should pass this year.
Under law, the agency must provide a response to the petition and explain its decision to grant or deny the request.
Last June, the Senate passed a compressive immigration reform bill that would provide a legal pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The bill stalled in the House, but in recent weeks Republicans have begun discussing the possibility of reform and immigrant advocates are hopeful that legislation will pass in the near future. But there’s no guarantee.
“We are asking [Obama] to use the authority vested in him by the Constitution of the United States to ease this crisis and at the same time keep fighting for justice for immigration reform,” said Ana Aveñdao assistant to the president of AFL-CLO on immigration.
Hector Danilo Ruiz is one of the petitioners who’s says his future depends on the outcome. Immigration police detained Ruiz, a father of two from New Orleans, as he was leaving his Bible study group in that southern city. Ruiz says he was targeted because he looked Latino.
Ruiz is now in the midst of deportation proceedings and says he will soon be forced out of the country, leaving his family behind in the U.S.
Ruiz said he signed the petition because Obama promised to support immigration reform. He is pleading to stay in America with his family and wants to help other immigrants who face similar challenges.
Deportations under the Obama Administration are approaching two million. More deportations have occurred in past 10 years than in the previous 110 years combined, according to B. Loewe, the National Day Laborer event moderator.
“We believe that stopping deportation should be the first step to starting immigration reform,” said Jessica Karp, National Day Laborer staff attorney. Karp said an executive order would allow undocumented immigrants to be active participants in the immigration debate.
“Right now the people at the center of the debate are not able to participate in it because of fear of deportation. The president can change this by giving undocumented immigrants space to emerge from the shadows, and at the same time relive suffering and transform the debate and even improve prospects for immigration reform legislation,” she said.
But Ira Mehlman, media director for Federation for American Immigration Reform — FAIR — said the Homeland Security Department cannot ignore the laws of the land and allow law-breakers to stay in the country.
“The president has already gone to great lengths to not deport many immigrants and right now they are only deporting criminals,” said Mehlman.