Hundreds of leaders of a national network of young immigrants have turned up the heat on President Barack Obama to unilaterally act to stop deportations, after abandoning hope that House Republicans would take up immigration reform this year.
According to The New York Times,
500 youth activists were in Phoenix this weekend who are part of the network, United We Dream. They want Obama to deliver on his pledge earlier this year that he would take executive action to move forward his agenda when Congress failed to act.
"The community we work with is telling us that these deportations are ripping our families apart. This has to stop," Cristina Jimenez, the managing director of the network, told the Times. "And we know the president has the power to do it."
The network is the largest organization of immigrants who grew up in this country without legal status after coming as children, calling themselves "Dreamers."
The group said it would pressure the president to expand the deportation deferrals he provided to them by executive action in 2012, according to the Times. More than 520,000 young people have received deferrals, which permit them to work legally and get driver's licenses in many states, according to the Times.
The issue could have significance in an election year, given the program has widespread popularity among Latino and immigrant voters, an important voting bloc for Democrats who may be struggling due to the president's unpopularity and disillusionment with Obamacare.
The president, however, insists he does not have legal authority to grant more deferrals.
The group nonetheless is pushing Obama to cut back on programs that have expanded the local reach of federal immigration authorities. They also want him to grant deportation deferrals to undocumented parents of youths who had received them.
"We can't wait for Washington to continue playing around with our lives," Julieta Garibay, a network leader, told the Times. "Our people see deportations every single day. They say, 'Maybe this might be the last day I get to see my mom because she might get deported tomorrow.' We're fed up with that."
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