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A Laundry List of What President Obama Can Do On Immigration

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"There's really no such thing as the 'voiceless.' There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard."
-Arundhati Roy

Ju Hong's "yelling" to issue an executive order to stop deportations echoed across the country, and has sparked a series of actions mostly calling on the president to use his executive authority to stop deportations. Over 500 national organizations (and growing), including the Mexican American Legal and Education Defense Fund, United We DREAM, the National Day Labor Organizing Network and AFL-CIO, have signed on to a letter asking the president to exercise discretion in stopping his deportations. Even House Democrats joined the chorus, with 29 House Democrats signing a letter to the president to suspend deportations and expand DACA:

If your child has received DACA, you should not be deported. If you qualify for legalization under the Senate bill -- a bill the president and the rest of the country supports -- you should not be deported. We cannot continue to witness potential citizens in our districts go through the anguish of deportation when legalization could be just around the corner for them. We look to you to firmly contribute to advancing inclusion for immigrants by suspending deportations and expanding DACA.

President Barack Obama said during a trip to New Orleans, "We should be fighting to make sure everybody who works hard in America, and hard right here in New Orleans, that they have a chance to get ahead." However, instead of trying to reduce deportations, the Obama Administration is piloting a new, unprecedented and extraordinarily harsh effort to hunt down and deport thousands of hardworking undocumented immigrants in New Orleans.

The Obama Administration's hypocrisy on immigration knows no limits. Instead of taking action, the president would rather hide behind the "rule of law" discourse, and pretend that he doesn't have power to do anything. Invoking the "rule of law" is not only disingenuous but dangerous because it is used to quell the demands of the lesser privileged for real, tangible, social change. President Obama says he can't stop deportations because it isn't within his powers. Yet, he finds it within his power to carry out mass surveillance, drone attacks, topple regimes, and order extra-judicial killings.

However, short of placing a moratorium on deportations, there are many things the Administration can do to relief the pressure on immigrant families across the country that are well within executive powers. These include:
  • Detention: Redefine "in custody" as inclusive of ankle-monitoring programs, in order to let people--62 percent of whom have no criminal records--out of detention;
  • Enforce existing memos that allow for parole of asylum seekers who have passed their credible fear interviews;
  • Stop the Department of Justice (DOJ) assault against undocumented law school graduates such as Sergio Garcia, Caesar Vargas, and so on;
  • Issue "Notice to Appear in Removal Proceedings" only in the most severe criminal cases, which would reduce the immigration court docket over time by more than 60 percent;
  • Work on crafting a narrower definition of "aggravated felon" -- a catch-all phrase that now includes both serial rapists and lawful permanent residents who have committed non-violent crimes in the past;
  • Put an end to Secure Communities (S-COMM), an administrative deportation program that targets persons with minor criminal records, and has led to the ICE detention of over 3000 U.S. citizens;
  • Roll back new harsh effort "Criminal Alien Removal Initiative";
  • Pardon prior re-entry;
  • Expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to cover all childhood arrivals rather than place an arbitrary age cap;
  • Stop assault on lawful permanent resident parents by giving full meaning to the Child Status Protection Act so that thousands of young people, including many Dreamers, can finally reunite with their parents.
And the list goes on. Last week, a judge ruled that the president's uncle, Omar Obama, could stay in the U.S.

But justice is nowhere in sight for those of us with no ties to the president, our deporter-in-chief.