Pelosi presses Obama on deportations

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is taking President Obama to task for the “totally unjustified” deportations of illegal immigrants during his administration.

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“I think that there is discretion in the law as to the implementation, enforcement of the legislation that is calling for these deportations,” Pelosi told the Spanish-language station Telemundo.

“And I myself, coming from San Francisco … have seen deportations that were totally unjustified,” she added.

Pelosi said she’s not sure whether Obama has the power to halt all deportations through executive action, an idea that’s being pushed by some immigration activists.

But the Democratic leader said Obama could be taking a less aggressive approach.

“They think they see a different set of data,” Pelosi said. “But our anecdotes are illustrative. There are so many examples. And for years, we have been after the administration not to have this disparity of discretion that is used. It's wrong.”

Pelosi’s communications director Drew Hammill said the minority leader was simply reiterating her position, adding that Pelosi prefers to handle it legislatively.  

“Leader Pelosi’s comments to Telemundo are a restatement of her long-held belief that being an undocumented immigrant is not a basis for deportation,” he said. 

In 2012, the Obama administration announced it would halt the deportation of students brought to the country illegally as children, if they enrolled in college or joined the military. Conservatives blasted the move as a unilateral imposition of the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some children of illegal immigrants.

With work on a broader immigration overhaul stalled in Congress, lawmakers such as Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and activists have urged Obama to go even further by halting all deportations of illegal immigrants.

The White House has maintained that enforcement authority alone cannot fix the immigration system and has pushed instead for legislative reforms.

“I know what some people want to know is whether or not we can use that authority, DHS can use that authority more broadly, and the answer to that is we have 11 million people who are deportable by act of Congress. We need Congress to act if we are really going to protect everybody from deportation and put those people on a path to citizenship,” White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Muñoz said during an online chat last week.

Pelosi said living in the country illegally is not enough to warrant deportation, adding that “if somebody has broken the law, committed a felony or something, that is a different story.”

Pelosi also expressed hope that the House would move on immigration reform early next year.

“Well, I think if it's going to happen, it will happen before June,” she said.