U.S. Latino groups expect relief on deportations from Obama

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 14, 2014 8:30pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before signing a Presidential Memorandum on modernizing the overtime system to help insure workers are paid fairly for their work while in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 13, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before signing a Presidential Memorandum on modernizing the overtime system to help insure workers are paid fairly for their work while in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Latino groups and immigration advocates said on Friday they expect President Barack Obama to ease back from record deportations of people living illegally in the United States after discussing their concerns with him for almost two hours.

Obama announced late on Thursday that he had decided to review deportation practices to seek a more "humane" way to enforce immigration laws.

His surprise decision came after months of pressure from Latino groups, who are frustrated with stalled efforts to overhaul immigration laws to provide a path to citizenship for about 11 million people living illegally in the United States.

More than a dozen immigration advocates met with Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other top White House officials.

The group included Janet Murguia, head of the National Council of La Raza. Earlier this month, she called Obama, who is known as the commander in chief, the "deporter in chief" in a speech.

Murguia told reporters her "tough words" were warranted because "our community is in crisis" with families being separated through deportations.

"He has asked us to work directly with Secretary Jeh Johnson to really find more humane ways to be able to address the situation, and to reduce those deportations wherever we can," Murguia said. The first meeting will take place next week.

"Our hope and expectation is that with that would come some reduction in the level of deportations," she said.

In 2012, Obama had Homeland Security temporarily halt deportations of undocumented children who were brought to the United States by their parents.

Immigration law experts have said Obama could use his executive authority to also stop deporting parents of those children to keep families together.

But until this week, Obama had resisted calls to use his authority to slow down on the pace of other deportations, saying that he needed to uphold the law, and wanted to reform laws working with Congress.

Obama has made immigration reform one of his top priorities even as his administration has aggressively enforced existing laws, deporting about 2 million people since he took office.

The Democratic-controlled Senate has passed an immigration bill, but efforts to overhaul laws have stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The White House said the meeting focused on keeping pressure on Republicans to pass reforms. Latinos have become a key voting bloc and could play an important role in upcoming midterm elections in November.

"For Latino voters in particular, we're going to make it very clear that this is an outcome that will affect the elections," Murguia said.

At a White House event honoring visiting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Friday, President Barack Obama spoke about wanting to "fix our broken immigration system."

"Under today's laws, many of your parents and grandparents may not have made it here," Obama told an audience filled with Irish-Americans.

"There's no reason why we can't do for this generation of immigrants what was done for a previous generation, to give them that chance," Obama added.

Xavier Becerra, a member of the House Democratic leadership and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, met Thursday night with Obama.

He said Obama said he understands the "heartbreak" felt by families who are separated by deportations.

Becerra said that when the House returns from next week's recess, Hispanic Caucus members will meet with Johnson to talk about possible executive actions that could be taken.

"The president said, 'Let's see what we can do within the confines of the law,'" Becerra told reporters.

"The president made it clear. He is ready to take a look at how we continue to make this work better."

(Additional reporting by Rick Cowan and Will Dunham; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Ken Wills)

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Comments (14)
richinnc wrote:
I guess I can understand how a lawyer can say its ok to break the law. Its how they get some of their business. But for the President to say that people who are in this country illegally should not be deported proves his lack of resolve in addressing hard issues. Something Putin knows already.

Mar 14, 2014 9:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
actnow wrote:
President Obama is turning our nation into an anything goes, third world joke where laws mean nothing and citizens are kicked to the curb in order to get future votes. Apathy won’t do. Keep calling your reps weekly to demand enforcement and what is good for American citizens first! I keep my reps numbers programmed in my cell and call often (202 224-3121 is the Capital Switchboard to reach any congressman or senator). NumbersUSA dot com is an awesome website too for easy to send faxes and to understand what is really going on. Our nation is being hijacked by political terrorists from both parties and citizens must get engaged or we will lose this nation. Get involved or get buried.

Mar 15, 2014 9:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
unionwv wrote:
If I illegally entered Mexico, could I “expect relief” from Mexico’s deportation laws?

Mar 15, 2014 11:17am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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