WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 18, 2016 – Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) joined Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) in releasing a letter they wrote to President Obama asking him to use his pardon authority to protect DREAMers with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). “We urge you to exercise your Constitutional authority to provide pardons to DREAMers both retroactively and prospectively,” the three lawmakers wrote. The full text of the letter is here: Ltr to President on DACA and Pardon Authority – 11-2016 FINAL.pdf
They were joined at a press conference in the Capitol by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA).
In his opening statement at the press conference, Rep. Gutiérrez said:
We are starting by calling on President Obama to provide relief while he is still in office for one particular group, DREAMers who came forward and registered with the government. We are asking the President to pardon them for their undocumented status, which by definition happened when they were juveniles. This would not give them a permanent safe place, but it is a start. This group has already been vetted by the federal government. They are more at risk because they registered and gave up their addresses and fingerprints.
Rep. Gutiérrez went on to say:
All we are asking is for the President to continue his commitment. To continue seeing in these young American children the same hopes as he sees in his daughters. To follow through on his promise to put them in a safe place where they can work hard and achieve everything they can achieve in life.
The text of the opening remarks at the press conference (as prepared for delivery) is below.
A video of the press conference is here (courtesy of the Democratic Caucus): https://youtu.be/aETbfQix82M?t=21m46s
Rep. Gutiérrez represents the Fourth District of Illinois, is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and is the Co-Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
We are here because we all need to take a stand. We need to stand up for what is right and make sure our communities do not despair or feel alone.
There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. There are 5 million U.S. citizen children who have a parent who is undocumented. And there are almost 750,000 young people who came forward, registered with the government and passed background checks as part of the DACA program.
That is the group we are talking about today, but let us be clear, the entire community is vulnerable and this is just the first of many strategies we are evaluating and calling for to do what we can to help make sure everyone is in a safe place.
Right now, immigrant communities are frightened, and by that I mean citizens, legal immigrants, and undocumented immigrants, most of whom have lived here for one or two decades. They are worried that their families will be destroyed, that they will lose their businesses and their livelihoods. They are worried that the education they worked so hard for for their children – almost all of whom are American citizens – will go up in smoke. They have no options to become legal in the United States or to leave and come back legally, and yet their lives and their children’s lives are here in this country.
They are not the only communities that are frightened by the election of Donald Trump. Children in Muslim families, LGBT families, across communities of color, low-income families, even women who have been victimized by sexual assault and violence – there is very widespread fear among people who are worried they will be targeted with violence, punitive policies, discrimination and harassment.
And the greatest impact is on children. This week I spoke at a press conference at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago with officials from the state, county and city who have seen a 200% increase in calls to suicide prevention and counseling services in the City of Chicago and 250% nationwide.
The fear is widespread and dangerous.
We will be working over the coming months to identify as many ways as we can to help our fellow Americans protect themselves and make their families and their children safe.
For us, action is a matter of life and death.
We are starting by calling on President Obama to provide relief while he is still in office for one particular group, DREAMers who came forward and registered with the government.
We are asking the President to pardon them for their undocumented status, which by definition happened when they were juveniles.
This would not give them a permanent safe place, but it is a start.
This group has already been vetted by the federal government.
They are more at risk because they registered and gave up their addresses and fingerprints.
And everybody knows that they are leaders and the line of first defense in immigrant communities.
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Their brave advocacy – by coming forward and declaring that they are here and are proud to fight for their community and their families – it has energized immigrant communities and lit a fire under old people like all of us in the U.S. Congress.
They have become role models for rest of the community—role models for all of us, for the nation, really.
When President Obama ran for reelection in 2012, he ran an ad in Spanish – maybe you remember it. In the ad he said he granted DACA to DREAMers because he saw the same values and aspiration inculcated in DREAMers as he saw in his own two daughters.
All we are asking is for the President to continue his commitment; to continue seeing in these young American children the same hopes as he sees in his daughters. To follow through on his promise to put them in a safe place where they can work hard and achieve everything they can achieve in life.
Look, in 2012, President Obama embraced the DREAMers, put them on in prime time at his convention, and Democrats continued to place DREAMers in prominent roles in the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.
As Democrats, as parents, as leaders, as Americans, we simply cannot let those who trusted their government and came forward to now twist in the wind.
We will fight for our community and not just the DREAMers.
If you ask the DREAMers themselves, they will tell you it is not just about us, we need our families too and we agree with them.
We need a broad, unified, multi-faceted plan to keep families together and push back on Donald Trump’s mass deportation plan.
And let’s be clear, when Trump says 2 to 3 million immigrants are criminals and gangbangers, he is lying and it means he intends to do massive sweeps in immigrant communities. This is no different than when Trump during the campaign called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers. He wants to paint us all with the same brush.
When he appoints Steve Bannon, Kris Kobach, Jeff Sessions, Jan Brewer or Joe Arpaio to senior positions, he means that mass deportation is coming.
What we are saying is we will use every peaceful, political, and social means necessary to keep families together and stand up for fairness and justice.