House Democrats escalate call to pardon DREAMers

December 7, 2016
Blog Post

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 60 House Democrats, led by U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), today released a new letter to President Obama asking him to carefully consider a presidential pardon as part of a strategy to protect DREAMers with DACA from the incoming Trump Administration. 

This follows a letter sent last month to President Obama which asked him to protect this group of immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and signed up for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and which was misinterpreted by the White House as a call to provide them legal status.  The new letter clarifies that the pardon strategy, which does not bestow legal status, is an urgent plea at a time when fear of President-elect Trump's campaign promise of a deportation force is being sown throughout congressional districts around the country. 

Text of the full letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to reiterate and clarify our time sensitive request that you grant Presidential pardons to those who your Administration has vetted and granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. 

In response to a recent congressional letter asking you to pardon beneficiaries of the DACA program, the White House stated "the clemency power could not give legal status to any undocumented individual.  As we have repeatedly said for years, only Congress can create legal status for undocumented individuals."  Your Director of the Domestic Policy Council has also made similar remarks. 

First, as U.S. Congressmen and women, we are well aware that it is within our power and not yours to pass laws that establish pathways to legal status for undocumented immigrants.  In fact, we have worked tirelessly throughout your Administration and previous Administrations to achieve this aim.  It remains a first and foremost goal for us as legislators. 

Second, we reiterate our request for you to use your Constitutional authority to provide pardons for civil immigration violations.  Just as Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution delegates to Congress the authority to establish a "uniform Rule of Naturalization," Article II, Section 2 delegates sole authority to the President to grant "Pardons for Offences against the United States."  The Constitution specifically does not limit the pardon power to criminal offenses.  We ask for the narrow reprieve of a retroactive and prospective pardon of categorical civil immigration violations for a unique group of young immigrants who have placed their trust in both you as their President and us as their lawmakers.  To be clear we are not asking you to "create legal status." 

We believe that this action is critical, although it does not create legal status, because for many DREAMers it could clear a path to a legal status that already exists under current law.  Providing protection and stability for immigrants is a shared goal, especially at a time when fear and uncertainty in our communities is at an all-time high.  Therefore, we urge you to reconsider and exercise your Constitutional authority to provide pardons to young people who are American in every way but on paper.


Since it began in 2012, approximately 750,000 young people have come forward to register under the DACA initiative. They have paid fees, submitted fingerprints and undergone background checks. The goal of the program is to protect from deportation these young immigrants who are assets to their communities.

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