With time quickly running out on the presidency of Barack Obama and a successor on the way who has promised to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Democrats and human rights advocates are trying to pressure the White House to use executive power to help out nearly a million young people who could be affected.
A presidential pardon for those young so-called “dreamers” who have received temporary legal status through Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also referred to as DACA, has been supported by Congressional Democrats who think it could help, but the White House has signaled there is little chance it’ll happen.
So, is there any chance that the 750,000 or so dreamers can actually receive a presidential pardon between now and Jan. 20? And, more importantly, would a presidential pardon even keep them from being deported?
A letter sent this week to Obama from Democratic California Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Luis Gutierrez asked that he pardon those young people for past and future immigration offenses. They say that doing so would give them a reprieve from deportation even though they would be left in legal limbo while they try to find a way to work their way to legal status.
But the White House seems to believe that there isn’t a viable road to take to pardon those individuals. White House officials have signaled that only Congress really has the ability to pardon those individuals and that the president does not hold the constitutional powers to grant that kind of immunity.
Beyond the broad rejection of Obama’s power to pardon those dreamers there are more specific questions about its legality, including whether a president can pardon an individual for crimes for which they haven’t been charged and whether a pardon would actually protect them from deportation while they seek legal status in the country.
President-elect Donald Trump has said he will immediately deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants when he takes office.