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Hispanics in Congress to Ask Obama Again to Slow Deportations

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus plans to ask the president again to use his authority to slow deportations.
Image: Eliseo Medina, Fast For Families leader, speaks at a rally
Eliseo Medina, Fast For Families leader, speaks at a rally on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Arlington, Texas, one of the stops on a bus caravan across the southern US to rally support for immigration reform. Seated on the right is Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, who last week called the president Deporter In Chief. Fast for Families

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is revisiting deportations and what the president can do to slow them, an issue it raised previously with the president with limited results.

Now that Republicans have put aside an immigration reform vote, immigration advocates have begun calling on their allies to pressure President Barack Obama to take executive action on deportations, which are about to reach 2 million under the president's watch.

The caucus' immigration task force, led by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., planned to consider language for a resolution Wednesday and the caucus planned a Thursday vote.

The resolution, first reported in BuzzFeed, continues to be drafted, but sources familiar with caucus plans said the resolution will not take the tough tone taken by Janet Murguía, National Council of La Raza president, who called Obama "Deporter in Chief."

However, it will contain a stronger sense of urgency than a memo the CHC sent Obama in 2011.

An area the caucus is likely to focus on is extending deportation deferrals beyond young immigrants who are here illegally, also known as DREAMers. Several members of Congress have signed on to a letter initiated by Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. and Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., asking Obama to expand deportation deferrals.

The CHC sent a previous plea to Obama in 2011, after Congress failed to pass immigration reform and a bill directed at DREAMers was killed in the Senate.

The 2011 memo asked the president to remove criminals and also said "where it is in the public interest to keep a family together to raise a child or to help a child reach their dreams, we should do so." At the time, the caucus said, America's enforcement regime was being used "indiscriminately, treating children and their families like criminals and sentencing them to years of separation with no relief in sight."

The memo and subsequent interaction between the Obama administration and the CHC put the caucus on the unwelcome list with the president until his 2012 re-election, Gutierrez wrote in his 2013 book, "Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill."

"We just wanted him to direct the resources of the U.S. government away from hardworking immigrant families and children who were not a threat to anyone," Gutierrez wrote.

In that request the caucus specifically asked the president to direct the Department of Homeland Security to "parole in place" DREAMers, their parents or immediate family members of a U.S. citizen or legal resident. DHS has the authority to parole or admit a person to the U.S. for urgent humanitarian reasons and when a person is already in the country illegally, they can be "paroled in place."

They also wanted DHS to ease the standards for extreme hardship that a person has to meet to re-enter the country after deportation.

The president's decision to give young immigrants who call themselves DREAMers temporary relief from deportation came the following year as Republicans were drafting their own DREAMer bill and the 2012 general election neared.

Meanwhile, other efforts are being made to force immigration legislation to move this year in Congress and to get the president to take action. California Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, called Tuesday for an end to a requirement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement fill 34,000 immigration detention beds a day.

"These quotas are costly and unjust and they simply don't make sense. ICE should have the flexibility to make incarceration decisions based on whether or not an individual poses a threat to our communities not under arbitrary congressional mandates," Roybal-Allard said.