Immigration Advocates Warn Obama Not to Think Small

Alex Altman, TIME, October 29, 2014

Immigration activists are ratcheting up the pressure on Barack Obama, warning the President that a failure to live up to expectations for executive action on immigration would jeopardize his party’s standing with the Hispanic community.

“We won’t take any more excuses,” says Cristina Jimenez of the immigration-reform group United We Dream. “What we expect from the President is for him to use his legal authority to enact a program that will protect as many people from our community as possible.”

Obama pledged over the summer to take executive action this fall on immigration in the absence of legislation to fix a broken system. That promise crumbled under political pressures, as vulnerable Democrats in red states cajoled the White House into postponing the move until after Nov. 4. Now, as the midterms draw near, some reformers fear they’re about to be brushed off once more.

As the White House begins to weigh the scope of executive action, the early whispers among immigration reformers are that Obama may fall short of the lofty targets the movement has set for him. The President is considering an order that would grant temporary protection from deportation and work authorization to a sizable number of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., a step he could take unilaterally by expanding the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.


At a “bare minimum,” said Pablo Alvarado, executive director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the immigration orders should include “an extension of work authorization to everyone who would qualify under the Senate bill and an end to the Secure Communities program and policies that criminalize immigrants. The President has the legal authority, the moral obligation, and the political capital required to take these important steps.” The Senate bill, which passed the upper chamber in June 2013 with 68 votes, would provide relief to some 8 million undocumented immigrants.


{snip} Two anonymous sources cited by Buzzfeed, which reported Tuesday that final recommendations were being sent to Obama, pegged the number in the low seven figures. And even some of Obama’s allies worry that a President with a mixed record on immigration and an instinct for the middle ground will disappoint the Hispanic community once again.


Immigration reformers urged Obama to withstand those pressures. “Some might worry the backlash against a bold program will be too great,” said Hincapié. But that backlash will exist whether the President extends relief to one person, 1 million or many more. “We’re holding the president to his word,” she added. “There are no more excuses.”

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