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Supporting President Obama's Decision to Stop Deportations for Dream Act-Eligible Immigrants

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GUTIERREZ. Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to announce today that more than 100 of my colleagues have joined me in writing to President Obama to thank him for his action to use prosecutorial discretion to stop deportations for DREAM Act-eligible immigrants.

We are pledging our continued and strong support for this policy. My colleagues and I, 104 of us, are standing together to make clear that we think America is a better place with the immigrants who will be helped by this new policy.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Progress doesn't always mean consensus. My colleague, Mr. King of Iowa, wants to sue the President, take him to court, because Mr. King is determined to deport every last young person who is DREAM Act eligible. Mitt Romney says that he would veto the DREAM Act and does not support steps to protect these very young people.

Let's remind ourselves exactly who the Republican candidate for President believes should be deported.

DREAM Act-eligible young people who have lived in America for more than 5 years. Most of them were brought to our Nation as children, many of them as infants, toddlers, yes, babies. They've stayed away from crime. They attended our high schools and colleges. They are no different from your children or my children. They regularly excel at school. Some are valedictorians. They are athletes and musicians and leaders. Many of them want to serve our Nation in the military. They are leaders in their high school ROTC. They are, in every sense of the word, except for the very narrow, exclusive sense promoted by Mr. King and Mr. Romney, outstanding young Americans.

Apparently, when Mr. King and Mr. Romney look at the winner of your high school science fair or a young immigrant eager to become a soldier, they see a threat to our national security.

Sensible Americans see their friends and neighbors, young people who want to make America better. They want these young people to be treated fairly, and they also want our Nation to be safe.

So, Mr. Speaker, I would ask Mr. King and Mr. Romney a question: In a world where our law enforcement officials have limited time and resources, who should they be focused on investigating, detaining, putting behind bars, rounding up, and deporting--the captain of your high school chess team or a drug smuggler?

I know the answer. I think most of Americans would agree. Immigrants who break the law should face serious consequences. Immigrants who are busy studying for exams should simply be left alone. That's not just my opinion or just the opinion of immigrants or advocates or 104 of my colleagues.

Despite those few who would like to sue the President and force him to kick high school kids out of this country, President Obama's actually legally and responsibly using prosecutorial discretion to leave young people alone and focus instead on actual criminals.

It is the consensus legal opinion among experts. Even the Supreme Court has weighed in. In their Arizona decision last month, the Supreme Court wrote:

A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials. Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.

``Whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all,'' says the Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court's opinion is not enough, then I submit the opinions of Members of Congress, including those of Members I don't often agree with when it comes to immigration. These Members include Lamar Smith, the chairman of our Judiciary Committee; David Dreier, chairman of the Rules Committee; and even Brian Bilbray, chairman of the House anti-immigration caucus.

Just a few years ago, as this letter notes, they weighed in forcefully on prosecutorial discretion. In a letter to a previous President's administration, these staunch opponents of immigration reform enthusiastically defended prosecutorial discretion, writing: ``The principle of prosecutorial discretion is well established.'' They wrote that legal experts at Immigration Services ``apparently well-grounded in case law'' show that the Immigration Services has prosecutorial discretion in the initiation--the beginning--and the termination of deportations.

It's simple, really. The Members of Congress who signed this letter with me today, the Supreme Court, President Obama--and yes, even Lamar Smith and dozens of his colleagues just a few years ago--get it. It is time to leave hardworking immigrants alone. When we do, our law enforcement officials can focus on catching the actual bad guys.

July 18, 2012.
President Barack Obama,
The White House, Pennsylvania Avenue,
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President: We write to thank you and express our appreciation for your recent decision to grant ``deferred action,'' protection from deportation, and work permits to certain young people who call the United States home and who are not an enforcement priority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

We welcome the opportunity to ensure that our constituents who fit the criteria for relief are among the estimated 800,000 individuals whose lives will forever be changed as a result of your leadership. DREAMers coming forward to apply will mark a new chapter, but not the last chapter, in a long struggle for inclusion in society. The new policy represents an important down payment toward achieving broader reforms in the future.

The implications of your policy are already reverberating well beyond those who are potentially eligible for deferred action. With this announcement, you have changed the public discourse about immigration and immigrants, and our communities are now excited and hopeful. Even those who attack immigrants for political purposes are second guessing their negative posture toward the young immigrants you are protecting. You have opened the door to reform, and people of all political stripes recognize that change is coming and is inevitable.

We recognize that there are those who will want to take the power of discretion away from you and the Executive branch. Like you, we agree that you are on solid moral and legal ground and we will do everything within our power to defend your actions and the authority that you, like past Presidents, can exercise to set enforcement priorities and better protect our neighborhoods and our nation.

Despite this vital reprieve for a deserving group of promising individuals, we also understand that it does not diminish the need for a permanent solution and comprehensive immigration reform. Mr. President, we stand committed to fixing the broken immigration system once and for all, and we are ready to fight for a permanent solution that benefits all children and families, the economy, our national security and our nation.

We thank you again for your actions on behalf of DREAMers. We stand ready to work with you to ensure the policy's success and to use it as a stepping stone for broader relief and future legislative action.

Luis V. Gutierrez; Joseph Crowley, Xavier Becerra; Steny Hoyer; Howard Berman; Charles A. Gonzalez; Jared Polis; Susan A. Davis; Zoe Lofgren; Judy Chu; Nancy Pelosi; John Conyers, Jr.; Lucille Roybal-Allard; Michael M. Honda; Barbara Lee; Gene Green; Raúl Grijalva; James P. Moran; Eleanor Holmes Norton; Bill Pascrell, Jr.; Janice Hahn; Peter Welch; José E. Serrano; Betty McCollum; Ruben Hinojosa; Lois Capps; Yvette D. Clarke; Laura Richardson; Silvestre Reyes; Hansen Clarke; Terri Sewell; Jerrold Nadler; Bob Filner; Dennis Cardoza; Frederica Wilson; Charles B. Rangel; Edolphus ``Ed'' Towns; Jan Schakowsky; Jackie Speier; Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan; Maxine Waters; Bobby L. Rush; Pedro R. Pierluisi; Carolyn B. Maloney; Gwen Moore; Louise M. Saughter; Ted Deutch; Chaka Fattah; Rick Larsen; Jim McDermott; George Miller; Henry C. ``Hank'' Johnson, Jr.; John Lewis; John W. Olver; James P. McGovern; Joe Baca; Rush Holt; Robert A. Brady; Eni Faleomavaega; Adam Smith; Al Green; Grace F. Napolitano; Earl Blumenauer; John Garamendi; John B. Larson; Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.; Doris O. Matsui; Keith Ellison; Fortney ``Pete'' Stark; Dennis J. Kucinich; Lloyd Doggett; Corrine Brown; Linda Sánchez; Gregory Meeks; Sam Farr; Gary C. Peters; Eliot L. Engel; Lynn Woolsey; Ed Pastor; Maurice Hinchey; Albio Sires; Mike Quigley; Loretta Sanchez; Danny K. Davis; Nita Lowey; Mike Thompson; Anna Eshoo; Marcy Kaptur; David Cicilline; Russ Carnahan; Nydia M. Valázquez; Chris Van Hollen; Steve Israel; Diana DeGette; Edward J. Markey; Henry A. Waxman; Karen Bass; Jim Costa; Steve Cohen; Henry Cuellar; Barney Frank; Ben Ray Luján; Sheila Jackson Lee; Robert C. ``Bobby'' Scott.

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