ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports:
An outspoken group of undocumented immigrants, who have met twice with senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett to discuss the need for immigration reform, say the administration has rejected a request for an executive order to halt deportations of students who came to the U.S. illegally as young children.
The four college students, well-known among immigration activists for their 1500-mile march from Miami, Fla., to Washington, D.C., sought presidential intervention after pending legislative measures that would provide a path to legal residency have become stalled in Congress.
One Senate bill — known as the Dream Act — sponsored by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin would grant legal status to students who came to the U.S. before the age of 15, have no criminal records, and complete schooling or military service. It would not extend protection to illegal immigrant parents. A similar measure has been introduced in the House.
“We are extremely disappointed with President Obama and Congress for their lack of action,” said Felipe Matos, 24, who has spent the past decade in the U.S. after migrating with his parents from Brazil. “The reality is that current enforcement-only policies are terrorizing our communities across the nation and no one is taking responsibility.”
The students and other immigration advocates have grown frustrated with what they see as lack of presidential leadership on a reform bill and many worry that the window for achieving legislation ahead of the 2012 presidential campaign may be quickly closing.
“I have been in the U.S. since I was two years old,” said 22 year-old Carlos Roa, one of the students who met with Jarrett. “There is no way for me to adjust my immigration status in the only nation I know as home… Hundreds of thousands of students just like me who believed in his [Obama’s] promise of change are now feeling completely disillusioned.”
Administration officials say Obama remains committed to comprehensive immigration reform, including relief for students like Matos and Roa, and may be unwilling to pursue an incremental legislative approach or what would likely be a controversial executive order so as not to compromise those efforts.
“The stories of these students are one more example of why we can no longer wait to fix our broken immigration system,” one administration official said. “That’s why the President has reached out to Republicans in the Senate to urge them to work with him on comprehensive immigration reform, and his Administration continues to work with the sponsors of the immigration reform proposal in the Senate to turn it into a bill.”
As Senator, Obama sponsored the Dream Act and supported its inclusion in a comprehensive immigration reform framework hammered out by Senators Schumer and Graham earlier this year.
Still, with no guarantee the Dream Act or a comprehensive reform package will be considered soon, Sens. Durbin and Lugar have urged the administration to pursue other means of relief for undocumented immigrant students.
The bipartisan duo sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in April asking the agency to grant “deferred action” for Dream Act eligible students and outlined precedent for doing so under existing law. An administration official says the White House is still working on a response to the letter.
– Devin Dwyer