A trio of Democratic lawmakers have asked President Barack Obama to use his executive authority before leaving office to pardon some 750,000 undocumented young people known as “dreamers” who were illegally brought to this country as minors by their parents.
The request was made by Congressmen Luis Gutierrez, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Zoe Lofgren in a letter sent to Obama on Thursday in which they asked him not to abandon the undocumented people and leave their fate in the hands of President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on January 20, 2017, Efe news reported.
“We urge you to exercise your Constitutional authority to provide pardons to ‘dreamers’ both retroactively and prospectively,” the legislators wrote, warning of the danger to the young people who were able to temporarily postpone being deported thanks to the Deferred Action programme (DACA) implemented by Obama in 2012.
Trump promised during his presidential campaign to eliminate that program, which allowed undocumented young people to get temporary work permits and drivers’ licenses.
Obama’s executive action measures allowed thousands of young foreigners to come out of the shadows and include themselves voluntarily on a government list, providing their fingerprints and addresses and, for that very reason they are now afraid that they will be among the first immigrants to be deported by Trump.
“‘Dreamers’ face uncertainty, fear and stress, leading to psychological issues including depression, anxiety and an increased risk of suicide,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Indeed, we have received reports of Dreamers who have taken their own lives as they are now facing the threat posed by the incoming president,” they said, adding that “Using your pardon authority, which is not subject to reversal, to protect these young people who relied on the program you implemented is quite literally a matter of life and death.”
When asked about whether their petition has any chance of success, the lawmakers said that Obama has the power to pardon both criminal and civil offences, the latter being the type of offence committed by foreigners who illegally cross the border or remain in the country after their visas expire.
Presidents usually reserve granting the most controversial pardons until their last weeks in office, and these pardons are usually provided to individuals and not large groups of people.
Nevertheless, the legislators mentioned that former President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) had pardoned thousands of men who fled to other countries like Canada to avoid having to fight in the Vietnam War.
In response to the request, a top White House official speaking on condition of anonymity emphasised that the presidential power to grant clemency cannot provide legal status to any undocumented persons and said that only Congress can regularise the status of undocumented foreigners.