United We Dream, the country's leading organization of immigrant youth, released a comprehensive list of principles for immigration reform today that outlines a fast and inclusive path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants and a rollback of harsh deportations programs.
Leaders of the group said that they are putting their full weight behind comprehensive immigration reform and are energized by President Obama's commitment to getting a bill passed this year. But, on a call with reporters they added that DREAMers are not taking the pressure off the president to slow deportations, which they say continue to tear their families apart.
"DREAMers are not good at accepting NO as an answer," said Lorella Praeli, policy director of United We Dream. "If the president is saying he will not stop the deportation of members of our community, we do not take that lightly."
Last year, the movement to pass the DREAM Act, which would have extended a path to citizenship to young undocumented immigrants, changed their demand from legislation to administrative relief, calling on the president to stop deporting DREAM Act eligible youth. After months of actions, Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which halted the deportations of many DREAM Act youth.
Yesterday, United We Dream leadership met with President Obama and asked him to halt the deportation of their parents. Data obtained by Colorlines.com in December revealed that the Department of Homeland Security deported 205,000 parents of US citizen kids in a period of just over 2 years.
In the meeting, the president said he would not slow enforcement as reform deliberations move ahead.
"The president was clear in responding to our concerns that there is a huge disconnect between" his vision of immigration reform and enforcement, said Praeli. But, "What he said is that politically he believes that he has more leverage" to pass reform if enforcement remains.
The DREAMers say they will vigorously advocate for a comprehensive immigration reform bill and support the president's efforts to build broad support. But, Praeli warned, "if later on the moving vehicle is something else, whether it be a moratorium [on deportations] or a stronger ask on administrative relief for our parents," they'll shift their demands.
"It is that leverage that our community has built over ten years...that got us to have the leverage to bring to the table both parties," she said, highlighting the group's power.