Obama ad­viser dashes dreams of par­don for il­le­gals

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Par­don­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants isn’t a vi­able op­tion for Pres­i­dent Obama in his fi­nal weeks in of­fice, his top do­mes­tic pol­icy ad­viser said in an in­ter­view re­leased last Tues­day that dashes the hopes of ac­tivists who de­manded that he use his pow­ers to shield Dream­ers from de­por­ta­tion.

White House Do­mes­tic Pol­icy Coun­cil Direc­tor Cecilia Munoz, in a pod­cast in­ter­view with the Cen­ter for Mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, said ad­vis­ers have con­cluded that a par­don wouldn’t ap­ply to im­mi­gra­tion cases — and wouldn’t be a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion any­way. “It’s not an an­swer here,” she said. Fear­ing the prospect of a Pres­i­dent Trump mak­ing good on his vows to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­grants, ad­vo­cates have pleaded with Mr. Obama to take steps be­fore he leaves of­fice Jan. 20.

They have asked that he halt all de­por­ta­tions for the rest of his ten­ure and de­manded that he make ex­pan­sive use of the pres­i­dent’s power of the par­don.

Point­ing to Con­fed­er­ate troops af­ter the Civil War and draft-dodgers af­ter the Viet­nam War as groups that had been granted mass par­dons, they said the same tool could be used for more than 740,000 Dream­ers — young adult il­le­gal im­mi­grants who came to the U.S. as chil­dren. Mr. Obama granted them a de­por­ta­tion amnesty un­der his 2012 De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram.

“We are ask­ing the pres­i­dent to par­don them for their un­doc­u­mented sta­tus,” Rep. Luis V. Gu­tier­rez, Illi­nois Demo­crat, said at a press con­fer­ence this month. “This would not give them a per­ma­nent safe place, but it is a start.”

Mr. Obama was ini­tially coy when asked in the days af­ter the elec­tion whether he could do more to pro­tect Dream­ers from de­por­ta­tion dur­ing a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ms. Munoz, though, said a par­don doesn’t ap­ply.

“I know peo­ple are hop­ing that par­don au­thor­ity is a way to pro­tect peo­ple. It’s ul­ti­mately not, for a cou­ple rea­sons. One is that par­don au­thor­ity is gen­er­ally de­signed for crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tions, not civil. But also it doesn’t con­fer le­gal sta­tus. Only Congress can do that. So ul­ti­mately, it wouldn’t pro­tect a sin­gle soul from de­por­ta­tion,” she said.

As Mr. Obama pre­pares to depart the White House, most of his im­mi­gra­tion legacy is in dan­ger. Af­ter he failed to get leg­is­la­tion passed in Congress, he took a se­ries of ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions to stream­line le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, to ex­pand waivers to give some il­le­gal im­mi­grants an eas­ier path to le­gal sta­tus and to put most of the rest of the il­le­gal im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion out of dan­ger of de­por­ta­tion.

In his most far-reach­ing ef­fort, he tried to ex­pand the 2012 DACA pro­gram to in­clude more than 4 mil­lion ad­di­tional il­le­gal im­mi­grants, hop­ing to halt their de­por­ta­tions and grant them work per­mits, en­ti­tling them to driver’s li­censes and some tax­payer ben­e­fits.

Fed­eral courts said the pres­i­dent over­reached his law­ful pow­ers and put the ex­panded pro­gram on hold.

Mr. Trump has said he will can­cel the pro­gram and the 2012 DACA. He could take both ac­tions on his first day in of­fice with a sim­ple memo re­vok­ing the poli­cies.

That would leave Dream­ers — the most sym­pa­thetic cases in the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate — in limbo.

Ac­tivist groups are try­ing to per­suade Mr. Trump to change his mind and keep the DACA pro­gram in place, say­ing it will be the first big test of his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We will not al­low them to be de­ported af­ter what they have been through,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illi­nois Demo­crat who has been a chief de­fender of the Dream­ers. “Now is the time for Amer­ica, this na­tion of im­mi­grants, to heal the wounds that di­vided us dur­ing this elec­tion. Let’s start with the Dream­ers. Let’s start with DACA.”

Ms. Munoz, who worked on im­mi­gra­tion as a top of­fi­cial at the Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza be­fore join­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, said in the pod­cast in­ter­view that DACA was a clear suc­cess, en­cour­ag­ing qual­i­fied mi­grants to step for­ward on their own.

But she said she wished the ad­min­is­tra­tion had been able to make more per­ma­nent changes through leg­is­la­tion. In 2010, Congress fell just a few votes shy of pass­ing the Dream Act to grant Dream­ers a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship.

In the broader de­bate, she said, ef­forts were de­railed by forces on both sides: con­ser­va­tives who said more ac­tion was needed on en­force­ment, and im­mi­grant rights ac­tivists who un­der­cut the ad­min­is­tra­tion with po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult de­mands.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Obama granted a tem­po­rary amnesty to 740,000 Dream­ers with his 2012 De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, but he was coy in the days af­ter the elec­tion about whether he could pro­tect them un­der a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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