(Washington, D.C.)–The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. supports President Obama’s decision to use executive authority to begin building a framework for comprehensive immigration reform. The President’s action is a positive first step to address the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently reside in the United States, many of whom are children who are forced to live in the shadows through no fault of their own. The President’s action is an opportunity to give current meaning to the hallmark of our country, a place where, no matter where you come from, the American dream is expected to be within reach.
Comprehensive legislation on immigration reform has been bogged down in the Congress for too long. LDF supports the president’s lawful action to move the nation forward on immigration reform by suspending deportations in specific instances to preserve the sanctity of the family. Extending protections to parents and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents will create increased family stability. We are also encouraged by the President’s anticipated expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to curb deportations of immigrants who came to this country as children and consider the United States of America the one place that they can truly call home.
This is not only a positive development for Latino and other immigrant populations but also for non-immigrant communities, including African-Americans, who were hit especially hard by the most recent economic downturn. By fixing the immigration system, it will be harder for employers to ignore some of the most vulnerable citizens in the economy, especially African-American workers, by avoiding payment of fair and livable wages.
President Obama’s actions are entirely consistent with unilateral steps taken by previous presidents, both Republican and Democratic, to protect persons from deportation. In those cases, Congress later ratified those decisions. We call upon Congress to do the same now.
The President’s unilateral action is in the same vein as actions taken by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, who also extended amnesty to family members of undocumented immigrants who were not included in the overhaul of the immigration system passed by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan in 1986. That legislation provided legal status to three million immigrants. President Reagan also authorized protection against the deportation of minor children of parents who were granted amnesty under that law. President Bush subsequently authorized a “family fairness” program under which family members who were living with a legalized immigrant and in the United States prior to 1986 were granted protection against deportation. Obama’s actions today, not only have ample precedent, but are absolutely fitting for these times.
Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President Director-Counsel, stated: “In taking these steps today, President Obama lifts up our nation’s core values of inclusiveness and opportunity and refocuses the lens on the importance of keeping families together. It is part of the American tradition to bring immigrants into the fold. We will look back favorably on this historic moment of progress.”
Janai Nelson, LDF’s Associate Director-Counsel, stated: “Fixing immigration is not an option—it is a necessity. The United States has richly benefited from the influence and industry of immigrants across the globe who dared to dream of a better life within its borders. Now, President Obama has shown the courage to address the throbbing issue of immigration reform responsibly and surgically. By doing so, he will preserve the sanctity of family and invest in our economy. President Obama’s courageous step forward on immigration reform paves the way for a more just economic system that will assist various marginalized communities, including African Americans, find their footing in the American economy and in American society.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights law organization. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society. LDF’s victories established the foundations for the civil rights that all Americans enjoy today. In its first two decades, LDF undertook a coordinated legal assault against officially enforced public school segregation. This campaign culminated in Brown v. Board of Education, the a unanimous landmark Supreme Court decision in 1954 that overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine of legally sanctioned discrimination, widely known as Jim Crow.
We have been a separate organization from the NAACP since 1957. Please refer to us as “LDF.”