While the DREAM Act was reintroduced earlier this month, advocates are pushing for President Obama to issue an executive order to halt deportations of youth that would be eligible for the bill until the act can be voted on and hopefully passed. The group Presente offers some perspective with their list for Top 6 Executive Orders in History. The list reminds us of instances when presidents have intervened during critical times of change or reform in our country. Many of the executive orders included were made to ensure compliance with the federal government on issues of civil rights.
- President Lyndon B. Johnson's Executive Order 11246 banned discrimination in federal employment.
- Johnson's executive order supplemented an earlier one by President John F. Kennedy, which affirmed equal opportunity in the government.
- FDR's creation of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression provided millions of jobs through public works projects.
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower's order to dispatch federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to ensure that nine black students could safely attend a desegregated school there.
- The Emancipation Proclamation itself, which freed all slaves in states that had seceded.
Presente topped their list with the hope that Obama will halt deportations of DREAMers through an executive order. Obama has expressed strong verbal support for the DREAM Act, saying "It is not only the right thing to do for talent young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own, it is the right thing for the United States of America" and calling its failure in December "heartbreaking." But he has not been forthright about his powers in preventing deportations, including those of youth eligible for the DREAM Act. Following the President's speech on immigration reform earlier this month, Rinku Sen wrote for Colorlines, "Obama could take full advantage of the moment by making a range of decisions that don't require congressional action... If he acknowledged that the bipartisan moment on this issue has largely passed us by, he might use his executive power to make regulatory and administrative changes that could, for example, ease family unification, or stop the deportations of DREAM Act eligible students, or prevent the deportations of parents of U.S. citizens."
Twenty-two senators have also asked Obama to defer action for undocumented immigrant youth who would have qualified for the bill, outlining several options to deal with the thousands of eligible students whose futures are in limbo while the bill makes its rounds in Congress again. Presente is circulating a petition asking the President to stop deporting DREAMers.