posted at 3:01 pm on December 7, 2016 by John Sexton
A group of more than 60 Democrats have signed a letter asking President Obama to use his pardon power to grant clemency to more than 700,000 illegal immigrants often referred to as “Dreamers.” The letter reads in part:
Secondly, we reiterate our request for you to use your Constitutional authority to provide pardons for civil immigration violations. Just as Article 1, 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 Offenses 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.
This is the second time Democrats have asked President Obama to pardon so-called “Dreamers.” Last month a similar letter was met with a swift response from the White House. “We note that 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,” a spokesman said.
As you can see, the new letter argues that Democrats aren’t asking Obama to create legal status for “Dreamers,” only to pardon the civil offense of illegal entry for which they could be deported. The concern among Democrats, as I noted last month, is that “Dreamers” who signed up for Obama’s deferred action program, DACA, had to give the government their personal information in order to be eligible. But under a Trump administration, that same information could potentially be used to single out the “Dreamers” for deportation. Democrats hope a mass pardon would prevent that. As Politico reports, not everyone agrees the President’s pardon power can be used in this instance:
Cecilia Munoz, the current director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, again ruled out the option in a podcast interview released last week by an immigration advocacy group, saying pardons are generally used for criminal offenses and it won’t give legal status to the Dreamers.
“Ultimately, it wouldn’t protect a single soul from deportation,” Munoz said during the podcast, hosted by the Center for Migration Studies. “So it’s not an answer here for this population.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has a similar view. He said he told Lofgren after the House Democrats’ initial press conference announcing their pardon push that he and his staff had explored the pardon option, and that it would not work for the more than 740,000 Dreamers affected by Obama’s action.
The real appeal of the pardon action to Democrats is that it cannot be undone by President Trump. But there is good reason to wonder if the “Dreamers” are really in any danger from Trump’s deportation force. As Allahpundit noted earlier today, Trump’s most recent statement on the matter suggests he has no intention of kicking them out.