Equity & Diversity

President Obama Won’t Pardon DACA Recipients, Top Aide Says

By Corey Mitchell — November 30, 2016 2 min read
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President Barack Obama won’t issue a sweeping pardon to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children because it “wouldn’t protect a single soul from deportation,” a top White House aide says.

Obama ordered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy in 2012, establishing that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children could receive a two-year work authorization and protection from deportation.

Immigration advocates worry that the policy, commonly known as DACA, could be a target of the Trump administration’s plan to crack down on illegal immigration.

Since the program was created through executive authority, the incoming president could alter or end DACA, Cecilia Muñoz, assistant to the president and director of the White House’s domestic policy council, said in a Center for Migration Studies podcast interview.

“I know people are hoping for use of pardon authority ... but because DACA is a use of executive authority, obviously the next executive can make whatever decisions they’re going to make about it,” Muñoz said. “The president has said since the very beginning that this is why he preferred legislation because anything that he had the capacity to do for people was by definition temporary.”

Three Democratic members of Congress asked Obama this month to issue pardons to DACA recipients for entering the country illegally or overstaying visas; the lawmakers hoped that a pardon would protect the immigrants from deportation. That’s not the case, Muñoz said.

“I know people are hoping that pardon authority is a way to protect people. It’s ultimately not, for a couple of reasons. One is that pardon authority is generally designed for criminal violations not civil, but also it doesn’t confer legal status; only Congress can do that. So ultimately it wouldn’t protect a single soul from deportation,” Muñoz said. “So it’s not an answer here for this population. I know people are hoping for an answer but by its very nature, the use of executive authority in this way is subject to the will of the executive.”

Here’s a link to the podcast interview, where Muñoz reflects on the Obama’s administration’s wins and losses on immigration policy and contemplates the future of immigration reform.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.