Obama calls for immigration enforcement review
By: Seung Min Kim and Reid J. Epstein
March 13, 2014 02:56 PM EDT
President Barack Obama has asked for a review of the administration’s enforcement policies for immigration laws to see if it can be done “more humanely within the confines of the law,” the White House said Thursday.
The announcement came after Obama met Thursday evening with three leading members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus amid a furor in the Latino and immigration-rights community over the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants under his administration.
“The president emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting.
Obama asked Jeh Johnson, the Department of Homeland Security, to conduct the review, the White House said. Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra of California, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Rubén Hinojosa of Texas attended the Thursday meeting at the White House.
The president also told the three House Democrats of his “strong desire to work together” to pressure Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The visit came as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which has played a key role on setting immigration policy for House Democrats, has been wrestling with a resolution aimed at Obama on deportations that would take a sharper line against the administration.
Key lawmakers and immigration reform advocates, highly skeptical that the GOP-led House will take up legislation this year, have upped pressure on the Obama administration to use executive action to suspend deportations they view as unnecessary.
Obama and his aides had repeatedly said that is not an option. Still, advocates have been hopeful that Obama will issue a directive similar to one he announced in spring 2012, which deferred deportations for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia pointedly called Obama the “deporter-in-chief” and urged the president to halt the removals that she said were tearing immigrant families apart. And three key Democratic members of the Senate Gang of Eight — Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York — all called on Obama to stop most deportations.
The Hispanic caucus has yet to formalize the resolution, but an earlier draft obtained by POLITICO calls on Obama to use “all legal means” to suspend, delay or stop deportations of immigrants if the removal would “have an adverse impact on the United States.”
After days of debate, however, lawmakers have toughened up the language. Cesar Vargas, the co-director of the Dream Action Coalition who has been discussing the CHC resolution with lawmakers, said Thursday that the new version was “absolutely” stronger than the previous draft.
“The CHC is truly our allies,” Vargas said. “We need to see allies, not followers.”
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said the Hispanic caucus is taking up the issue because it is “responding to a community issue.”
“We’re responding to inertia on the part of Republicans to do nothing as the situation continues to worsen, and look to the administration as the last option for relief,” Grijalva said.
The full 26-member caucus had been poised to vote on whether to approve the resolution earlier Thursday, but that was delayed until after the White House meeting. Gutierrez, when asked Thursday to confirm the White House meeting, declined multiple times to comment.