One of the nation’s top Latino lawmakers is calling on President Obama to drastically scale back deportations.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Tuesday urged Obama to use his executive authority to stop deporting immediate family members of U.S. citizens, permanent residents and certain undocumented young people.
"While we push for this reform … we must also stand united in our call for an end of deportations of families,” Menendez said at a gala held by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) in Washington. “The detention and deportation of moms and dads who are just trying to make ends meet is an outrage and it is a tragedy."
Obama faces mounting pressure from members of his own party and Latino advocacy groups over the record pace of deportations during his administration. Menendez is one of the highest-ranking senators to challenge Obama on his deportation policies.
NCLR President Janet Murguía took aim at Obama over deportations during the gala, too, dubbing him the “deporter-in-chief.”
“We respectfully disagree with the president on his ability to stop unnecessary deportations,” she said in a speech. “He can stop tearing families apart. He can stop throwing communities and businesses into chaos. He can stop turning a blind eye to the harm being done. He does have the power to stop this. Failure to act will be a shameful legacy for his presidency.”
The administration is on pace to reach its two millionth deportation some time this year. That’s the same number that George W. Bush carried out in his entire eight-year presidency.
Obama has been under pressure to address deportations on his own since immigration reform legislation ground to a halt in Congress. He was confronted at a public event last November by an undocumented activist who said he has the power to stop deportations on his own.
At the time, the president responded that he does not.
“So the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws,” he said. “And what I'm proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve.”
Menendez appeared at Tuesday night’s gala to an accept an award from NCLR to the Gang of Eight, a group of senators who drafted an bipartisan immigration reform bill last year that passed the Senate.
The administration has consistently said that it’s focused on deporting undocumented immigrants who are convicted of a crime or pose a danger to their communities. But Menendez countered that’s not the case, saying he had to intervene with government officials to stop the deportation of Carlos Oliva-Guillen, a New Jersey man with no criminal record and three U.S.-citizen children.
“Does anyone think that an upstanding citizen and New Jerseyan like Carlos should be deported before a criminal is deported?” he said in a separate statement. “No, no one thinks that but yet, that’s what is happening.”
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.