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Grijalva, House Dems call for 'cease fire' on deportations

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Grijalva, House Dems call for 'cease fire' on deportations

  • Democratic Reps. John Lewis of Georgia, Raul Grijalva of Tucson and Keith Ellison of Minnesota link arms prior to being arrested outside the U.S. Capitol as part of an October rally in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
    Nela Lichtscheidl/Cronkite News ServiceDemocratic Reps. John Lewis of Georgia, Raul Grijalva of Tucson and Keith Ellison of Minnesota link arms prior to being arrested outside the U.S. Capitol as part of an October rally in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

Six congressional Democrats called Monday for President Barack Obama to "cease fire" on the deportation of those in the country illegally and extend deferred action to nearly all of the 11 million people currently in the United States illegally using executive discretion.

U.S. Representatives Raúl Grijalva, Yvette Clarke, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Marc Veasey, Steven Horsford, and Sheila Jackson Lee spoke to reporters during a conference call Monday morning, along with leaders from the AFL-CIO and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a immigrant rights group. 

Calling deportation proceedings a "war" on those in the country without authorization, Grijalva said, "Right now, in this country, is a continuing war of attrition against the immigrant community, with the insistence that detention and deportation will convince those in Congress will move forward." 

Grijalva called for a "cease-fire" by requiring Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to halt all deportation proceedings until comprehensive immigration reform, stalled last year in the House, can pass through Congress. 

Clarke, a New York Democrat, agreed. "If we want to continue to fight for reform effectively and in good faith, we must immediately suspend the deportations." 

Arguing that Tucson and the New York City borough of Brooklyn, which she represents, face the same "terrible consequences" of deportation policies, Clarke called this year and the president's State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday night, an "important moment for reform." 

The call followed a Jan. 24 letter, signed by 34 members of Congress, asking the White House to "suspend further deportations and expand the successful deferred action program to all those who would be potential citizens under immigration reform." 

The new order would use measures as created under the Senate's Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill to grant deferments, including a review of felony convictions. 

According to data from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than 450,000 people have received deferrements under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order from the White House signed in June of 2012. 

The deferments give applicants a two-year stay on removal orders and are limited to those who were brought into the country before their 16th birthday, have not been convicted of a felony and are currently in school or have received a diploma, or are serving in the military. Nearly two million people are eligible and in December, Obama promised to continue deferments through 2014. 

Despite the deferments, the White House is on track to deport a record two million people by 2014 at a rate of nearly 1,100 per day. 

According to statistics from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, 368,644 people were removed from the United States in 2013 and ICE deported nearly two-thirds back to Mexico. 

"It is undebatable that Obama has discretion in this matter," said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. 

Alvarado believes extending the deferments is important, especially in light of the proposed Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act or SAFE, one of the piecemeal efforts considered by House members while the Senate's own bill languished. The SAFE act would include tougher measures and spending for enforcement and border security, while permitting states to create their own versions of Arizona's controversial SB 1070. 

"In recognition of the SAFE act, it's incumbent on the president to use his authority," said Alvarado. "It's not a question of legislation or presidential authority, it requires both." 

"We know Congress will only act if the president takes action on his own," said Tefere Gebre, vice president of the AFL-CIO. "We're sick and tired of seeing families torn apart, of workers being intimidated by threats of deportation." 

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