By Alexander Bolton - 03/04/14 08:13 PM EST
Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the Senate’s only Hispanic Democrat, called on President Obama Tuesday evening to ease the deportation of illegal immigrants while reform legislation remains stalled in Congress.
Menendez, an author of the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year, said the Obama administration should stop deporting the immediate families of citizens, permanent residents and illegal immigrants who came to the country at a young age.
Pro-immigrant advocates have become disenchanted with the Obama administration’s enforcement of immigration law and increasingly frustrated by the stalemate in Congress.
Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza, told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s dinner that she would dub him “deporter-in-chief.”
Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Democratic Conference, has also lost patience.
“The current deportation apparatus is an outrage and it’s a tragedy,” Menendez said Tuesday.
He urged the president to “take additional administrative actions to keep families together” by granting prosecutors broader discretion to enforce the law and relief deportation to the immediate family members of people who have been allowed to stay in the country indefinitely.
He said the Department of Homeland Security should be given leeway to release detained illegal immigrants if they do not pose a criminal danger.
“Just two weeks ago, my office had to ask ICE to reconsider the unfair deportation of a New Jersey man with no criminal record and three U.S. citizen children— one of whom is very ill and in medical need of his father,” he said. “Does anyone think that an upstanding citizen and New Jerseyan like Carlos should be deported before a criminal is deported?”