Rep. Gutierrez: Millions Waiting As Obama Immigration Actions Stalled

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of President Obama's announcement on executive actions on immigration, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said millions of families are still waiting for relief.

At an event hosted Thursday by the Center for American Progress, Gutierrez said a year might not seem like a long time for some. "But if you're waiting for a sense of safety, if you're waiting for your parents to be protected, if you're waiting for a piece of paper that says you can work legally, a year is an eternity," he said.

Friday marks one year since Obama announced a series of executive actions that included the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. The federal program would protect from deportation undocumented parents who have children who are citizens or legal residents and offer them a chance to apply for a work permit.

The president also announced as part of his executive actions that he would expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program he first announced in 2012 designed for undocumented youth who have spent most of their lives in the U.S.

But both DAPA and expanded DACA were blocked in the courts following a lawsuit by Texas and 25 other states. Last week, after a federal appeals court maintained a hold on the president's executive actions, the Obama administration said it plans to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gutierrez said Thursday he's confident that the Supreme Court will take up the case and rule in favor of the Obama administration by June of next year. In the meantime, he said undocumented immigrants who would qualify for the blocked programs should be protected from deportation.

That's because, he explained, the courts did not block prosecutorial discretion measures that Obama announced as part of his executive actions. The measures define how immigrants are prioritized for deportation. He said under those measures, undocumented immigrants who would qualify for DAPA or expanded DACA should be considered a low priority for deportation.

"They cannot come forward and register for a work permit or submit their fingerprints for a criminal background check," Gutierrez said, referring to those who would be eligible for DAPA or expanded DACA. "But millions of immigrants who live, work and raise their families in the United States should be protected from deportation if the system is working the way it's supposed to."

He also recommended undocumented immigrants to gather the documents necessary—such as birth certificates of their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children—to prove that they would qualify for DAPA or expanded DACA, so they can show those documents to authorities in case they're arrested.

"You should be, if everything works, released because you are no longer a priority and a target for deportation," he said.

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