According to data U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent to Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) office, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted “deferred action” to 12,338 illegal aliens residing in the U.S. in Fiscal Year 2010. The number provided most recently to Senator Grassley is a dramatic increase from the figure DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano provided during last month’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s oversight hearing (there she testified the number of deferred action grantees was less than 900). (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 14, 2011) The authority to grant deferred action status is a discretionary power, not found in statutes or subject to review by the courts. (Id.) Three agencies within DHS—USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)—have the authority to grant deferred action status when each decides in its own discretion not to remove an illegal alien from the country. (Id.)
The announcement of the revised number of deferred action grantees comes on the heels of calls by dozens of Democratic Senators and Congressmen for President Obama to use his Executive authority to grant amnesty to the estimated two million individuals who would be eligible for legalization under the “DREAM Act.” (See FAIR Website) Just this month DREAM Act crusaders Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), along with a group of 20 Democratic Senators, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to grant deferred action to those who qualify under the DREAM Act. “We would support a grant of deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal or a stay of removal under the DREAM Act….,” the letter reads. (Sen. Dick Durbin Website, Apr. 13, 2011) The letter goes on to suggest the Administration establish and publicize a process for DREAM Act eligible aliens to apply for deferred action status, stating that although it has been used in the past to keep them country, “there is no formal process for applying for deferred action, and many DREAM Act students are unaware of this option.” (Id.) Senator Grassley criticized the authors’ call for Obama to use deferred action on the Senate floor. “I’m just appalled that members of this body think an executive order to grant amnesty behind our backs is not an assault on the democratic process,” he said. (NY Times, Apr. 20, 2011)
At the same time, Representative Luis Guitierrez (D-IL), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Immigration Task Force, is leading the charge in the House to keep pressure on Obama to grant deferred action. Earlier this month he embarked on a 20-city tour demanding Obama grant deferred action to not just DREAM Act aliens, but the estimated four million illegal aliens who gave birth to children in the United States. (Chicago Sun-Times, Apr. 5, 2011; Fox News Latino, Apr. 21, 2011) These “are not violent criminals, but law-abiding, hard-working people,” he told attendees during one of his town-hall meetings in Rhode Island.