Deferred Action For All: A Common-Sense Step to Honor Immigrants' Contributions

President Obama's short-sighted decision to delay deportation relief for undocumented immigrants has rightly sparked outrage and indignation. Ultimately, the fallout from this latest broken promise will only strengthen our determination and expectations for broad and inclusive deportation relief.

Immigrants are a vital force in the economic, civic, and cultural fabric of communities across the country. Consider the example of California, where undocumented immigrants make up nearly one in ten workers and contribute $130 billion to our Gross Domestic Product.

These are among the top findings from a new report - "Looking Forward: Immigrant Contributions to the Golden State" - that the California Immigrant Policy Center released last week in conjunction with researchers at USC's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

An amount as enormous as $130 billon can be hard to fathom. A CBS news anchor in Bakersfield, California called it a "staggering statistic."

In fact, it's more than the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state of Nevada. And more than AT&T's total earnings last year.

And most importantly, behind this number are 2.6 million Californians, each with their own story. People like Etelvina Lopez of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, a leader in the domestic worker and immigrant rights' movements.

Etelvina is one of hundreds of thousands of workers who are intermittently employed. In fact, there are over 117,500 undocumented workers in California who work 13 weeks or less in the year, and another 26,000 were laid off. All told, these folks have a total earned income of more than $800 million, the positive impact of which reverberates throughout our economy.

But many immigrant workers lack basic civil rights protections and live with the daily threat of family separation and deportation.

"We take care of children and families, and it's not fair that our families are at risk of being separated," Etelvina said on Wednesday as we unveiled the contributions report on a conference call.

Across the nation, the Obama administration's relentless deportation machinery has separated two million people from their loved ones.

Here in California, we've taken important strides to enact policies that limit deportations and advance the inclusion of immigrant residents, and more measures are on the horizon. But this progress stands in stark contrast to the harsh and punitive measures that have long emanated from Washington, DC.

It's past time for the White House to follow California's lead and enact broad, inclusive relief. And as the President weighs the options, he should meet with undocumented immigrant leaders directly. And he should take Etelvina Lopez's words to heart: "President Obama should include everyone" in relief.

Expanding "deferred action" to all of California's 2.6 million undocumented residents - and to undocumented immigrants across the nation - is a common-sense step well within the Executive Branch's authority.

After two million deportations, countless arbitrary detentions, and widespread abuses, bringing relief to all undocumented people would be the least the President could do to recognize and honor immigrant workers' contributions.