News Release

Obama Could Pardon Immigrants

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AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky[at]salemstate.edu
Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. Her books include “They Take Our Jobs!” And 20 Other Myths about Immigration and Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal.

She just wrote the piece “A Radical Proposal for Radical Times,” which states: “Donald Trump’s election left many immigrant rights activists in a panicked thought loop. What did he actually say he would do? If he was saying he would deport ‘criminal aliens’ and ‘build a wall,’ is that really any different from what we’ve already seen under the Obama administration? Could he really deport 11 million people? Would he really eliminate President Obama’s signature successful pro-immigrant action, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth? If he did, what would happen to these young people? Finally, could there be any way to connect the struggle for immigrant rights to a larger campaign committed to challenging Trump’s extreme version of kleptocratic neoliberal capitalism?

“In the immediate wake of the election much of the attention with respect to the future of U.S. immigration policy has focused on the uncertain status of Dreamers and DACA recipients. On November 17, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) composed a letter asking Obama to issue a presidential pardon for DACA recipients before he left office, thus making their immigration offenses irrelevant and possibly enabling them to seek permanent legal status. Although the administration quickly rejected the idea, it has not died. A few weeks later, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the Bridge Act, which would enhance and protect DACA. Meanwhile, at the grassroots, the activism of a growing coalition has made the proposal grow much bolder.

“In large part this is due to the work of groups like the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative of Boston (IWCC). The IWCC has argued that focusing on ‘Dreamers,’ a group of ‘exceptional’ model immigrants, ignores the key structural, economic, and political issues that ultimately help link immigrants’ struggles to those of all working Americans — the so-called 99 percent.”