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Immigration advocates step up pressure on Obama to ease deportations.

Mar 7, 2014

"With their hopes for broad legislation to overhaul immigration policies all but dead for the year, advocates have turned quickly to a new target: Pushing President Obama to take executive action to ease deportations of immigrants in the country illegally.

In a coordinated, aggressive and sharp-elbowed campaign, leaders who stood behind the White House not long ago as the president called immigration reform his top second-term priority are now attacking Obama for not doing enough on his own. Dismissing Obama’s insistence that his hands are tied by the law, advocates plan to pile on until he relents -- as he did once before in the run-up to an election.

This week, the president of the National Council of La Raza, the country’s largest Latino advocacy organization and one of the White House’s most loyal allies, blasted Obama as the “deporter in chief.”

In remarks on the House floor, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Obama’s fellow Illinois Democrat, pointed to portraits of Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama and compared deportations under each. “President Obama has detained more immigrants in jails, prisons and detention facilities than any other president,” Gutierrez said.

The charge is not new; Obama has long faced criticism for presiding over a record number of deportations, roughly 2 million to date. Still, the strategy sends a mixed message to a key Democratic constituency before the midterm election. Democrats hoped to see immigration advocates assail Republicans who held up the overhaul bill.

Advocates suggest their goal is to play one off the other, arguing that Republicans in Congress may feel compelled to advance legislation if they think the president is on the verge of taking unilateral action.

“Republicans can either be participants in how this country advances more sensible immigration policies or they can simply sit on the sidelines while the president does it with his ‘phone and pen.’” Gutierrez said, picking up the president’s shorthand for his promise to wield his executive power to take action without Congress.

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group, thinks it’s likely Obama will eventually act. “The administration is deporting people every day who the administration says should be given legal status and a path to citizenship, so the question is: If Republicans continue to stall, does the president have the authority to make things better?” Sharry said. “We think he will act even though he’s not talking like it now.”

For now, the White House is absorbing the criticism, careful not to return fire and potentially alienate Latinos voters, a constituency that cares about immigration reform and has been loyal to the president." - To Read more articles from the LA Times, click here.

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