WASHINGTON -- A group of House Democrats plans to press President Barack Obama to meet directly with undocumented immigrants who are being affected -- potentially at urgent risk of deportation -- by current immigration policies.
Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) are asking their colleagues to sign on to a letter to the president regarding deportation relief. After initially promising to take executive action on immigration by the end of the summer, Obama announced earlier this month that he would push back plans until after the midterm elections. Immigration reform advocates, including some members of Congress, were outraged, noting that there could be tens of thousands of people deported from now until after the elections.
"Every postponement, however inconsequential someone might think [it is], has an effect, and it's not a good effect," Grijalva told reporters. "It's not inconsequential. It has great ramifications for a lot of people."
In the letter to Obama, the Democratic members noted that about 1,000 immigrants were deported per day in previous years.
"Every day, approximately 1,000 people are deported, amounting to roughly 50,000 people who will be forced to leave between now and November 4, 2014," they wrote. "While your administration has the authority to lessen the harm our broken immigration system causes, the decision to delay action exacerbates the fear and anguish felt in our communities."
Obama and White House officials have met frequently with immigration reform advocates, but activists argue undocumented immigrants should get more time to make their own case for deportation relief. Some are urging groups to boycott meetings with the administration until more undocumented immigrants are included.
The Blue Ribbon Commission, a group of undocumented immigrants fighting to limit deportations, initially proposed the boycott, and received the backing earlier this month of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of Latino groups.
Maru Mora, a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission, applauded the Democratic members for "elevating, rather than suppressing, the voices of undocumented people who live with the threat of deportation every day."
"Too often politicians and lobbyists on Capitol Hill speak on our behalf without truly understanding our urgency for action, nor our need to see broad relief," Mora continued in a statement.
The initial group of signatories was diverse, with members from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus and Black Caucus. Although a majority of undocumented immigrants are Latino, a significant proportion are Asian Pacific Islanders.
"[T]oo easily, family struggles are masked by a debate on policy," Chu, the chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a statement. "Meeting aspiring Americans and hearing their stories is crucial for understanding the urgency of immigration reform."
Read the full letter:
Dear Mr. President,
We write today to address the future of undocumented immigrants in our country.
Every day, approximately 1,000 people are deported, amounting to roughly 50,000 people who will be forced to leave between now and November 4, 2014. While your administration has the authority to lessen the harm our broken immigration system causes, the decision to delay action exacerbates the fear and anguish felt in our communities.
As the threat of deportation lingers, we respectfully request that you meet with families who live with that fear every single day, and to listen to their stories. We hope you find a way to reassure these families – parents and children alike – that despite the delay, you will provide administrative relief to those desperate for hope and a legal resolution. Given the ever-rising needs of families caught in limbo, we believe that this gesture will provide solace to those who worry that executive action will never come.
Please know that we share your concerns and frustration with the House Republican leadership's inaction on comprehensive immigration reform. We remain committed to fighting for this long overdue bipartisan legislation.
We hope you take every opportunity to reinforce the commitment you made in the White House Rose Garden in June 2014. We look forward to working with you to provide relief for families who are in dire need of clarity and hope.