In an effort to protect the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who grew up in the U.S. after illegally entering the country as children, three Democratic U.S. representatives urged President Barack Obama Nov. 17 to pardon them before President-elect Donald Trump comes to power.
Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California, Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, and Luis Gutierrez of Illinois asked Obama in a letter to help the roughly 750,000 people whom the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program granted deferred deportation, reports Newsmax.
"By no fault of their own, these Americans are prisoners in their own country, living their daily lives, not knowing if they will be deported to another country," Roybal-Allard said at a news conference, according to Newsmax.
Roybal-Allard, Lofgren, and Gutierrez were among those who pressured Obama to enact DACA in 2012 after immigration reform failed to make it through Congress. They said that at the time, they persuaded many of the so-called Dreamers to come forward and give their home addresses, fingerprints and other identifiable information to the Department of Homeland Security and consent to background checks, under the promise that submitting their information would not lead to their deportation in the future.
But now that Trump, who has promised to crack down on immigration and deport those living in the country illegally, is the president-elect, many of those individuals fear that Trump could use that very same information to have them removed from the U.S., the representatives said.
"These are kids," Roybal-Allard said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We feel a sense of responsibility … Now we are in a situation where all that we said, in fact, could possibly be reversed."
The White House has turned down the request to grant the pardons, saying that doing so would not help Dreamers remain in the country.
"We note that the clemency power could not give legal status to any undocumented individual," an Obama administration official said, according to the Times. "As we have repeatedly said for years, only Congress can create legal status for undocumented individuals."
With nearly 2.8 million U.S. residents deported under the Obama administration, the current president has already deported more individuals than any other president, notes Newsmax. President George W. Bush deported roughly 2 million people, while President Bill Clinton deported approximately 870,000.