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White House Admits an Obama Pardon Can't Give Legal Status to Immigration Violators


Obama immigration
Getty - Mandel Ngan(L)/Joe Raedle(R)

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program gives young adult illegal immigrants a two-year stay of deportation and issues them work permits.

It was passed by an executive order, and people are worried that President-elect Donald Trump will cancel the program when he gets into office.

January 20th is approaching quickly, so Democrats just threw a Hail Mary pass.

Reps. Luis Gutierrez, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Zoe Lofgren sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his power to grant a pardon to all past and future immigration violators.

Lofgren said in a press conference:

“There is a long line of cases that indicate that the pardon power of the executive is not reviewable by the other two branches of government so we urge the president to provide security to these young people."

This is true in that legitimate presidential pardons cannot be challenged by any other branch of government. It is the singular instance in American government when there is no separation of powers.

However, that doesn't mean President Obama can give the representatives exactly what they want.

A White House statement released to Buzzfeed News described the extent to which the president values his responsibility:

“The president takes the executive clemency power seriously. As a general matter, we do not comment on the likelihood of whether a specific pardon may be granted, should one be requested."

The statement went on to explain who, and only who, has the power to grant legal status:

"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.”

President Obama cannot grant legal status, but according to immigration lawyer, David Leopold, he still may be able to help the people he tried to protect with DACA.

Leopold claimed that a president can pardon specific immigration violations, such as 3- and 10-year bans for undocumented immigrants who leave and wish to return to the United States, BuzzFeed reported.

The lifted ban could help put illegal immigrants on a path to regularize their status.

During a post-election “60 Minutes” interview, Donald Trump described the details of his deportation plans:

“What we are going to do is get the people who are criminal and have criminal records...we're getting them out of the country. After we get the border secure we're going to make a determination on the people they're talking about, who are terrific people. They're terrific people.”

DACA seeks to protect and help young adults known as “DREAMers.” DREAMers have passed extensive background checks that proved they weren't criminals and may be currently working or going to school.

Even without an official pardon from the president, based on what Donald Trump's alleged plans are, DREAMers may not have anything to worry about.

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