Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, this week urged President Obama to use his executive power to enact the “broadest possible” deportation relief for undocumented immigrants.
Pelosi said that Obama should expand his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides a temporary stay of deportation to young undocumented immigrants, to include their parents and the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens. She also wants to roll back a controversial policy known as Secure Communities that allows federal officials to request that local law enforcement hold suspected immigration law violators.
“It would be my hope that the president’s lawyers would advise him on the broadest possible prosecutorial discretion,” Pelosi said Sunday during an interview with Univision Radio.
Pelosi said the Obama administration should focus solely on deporting “those who are guilty of serious crime or involved in organized crime.” Such policy changes could affect a significant number of the 11.7 million immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization.
The House minority leader’s comments could energize immigrant-rights groups and liberal Democrats, who have pressured Obama for months to act unilaterally to reduce deportations and allow more undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.
Staunch opposition from Republicans in the House this year prevented Congress from passing a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws, which included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In lieu of a new law, Obama is weighing executive actions to make changes in immigration policy. A decision could come by the end of the summer.
If Obama decides to enact deportation relief on his own, the move would please Democrats and immigrant advocates, but likely set off another political battle with Republicans.
The House GOP voted to freeze the DACA program before Congress broke for August recess, arguing it was an abuse of executive power.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) earlier this month criticized Obama for acting alone “to effectively stop the enforcement of our immigration laws and shield entire categories of unlawful immigrants from removal.”
“The president does not have the authority to amend, suspend, and rewrite our immigration laws on his own terms,” he said in a statement.
The White House has been coy about which policy changes the administration is considering.
Press secretary Josh Earnest said last week that Obama is reviewing an “array of options that are available to him under the law.”