On Thursday, three different members of Congress sent President Barack Obama a letter requesting that he issue pardons to preserve, in some small part, the effects of the same executive order on immigration that they had pushed for him to issue. The Los Angeles Times reports that Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-California), Lucille Robyal-Allard (D-California), and Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) sent Obama a letter asking that he use his presidential pardon power to forgive the immigration offenses of the 700,000-plus beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Under DACA, which was launched in 2012, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and met certain conditions were able to receive a two year, renewable work permit. Having provided their home addresses, fingerprints, and various other information to the Department of Homeland Security, there is now concern that all of those things could be used to deport them under the presidency of Donald Trump.
“They wouldn’t have a piece of paper, they wouldn’t have work authorization, but they wouldn’t have to be living in fear every moment of their lives about deportation,” Lofgren said at a press conference. In other words, a pardon would be something of a stop-gap, albeit one that, by virtue of eliminating immigration offenses on a given person’s record, would make it easier to take more traditional steps to stay in the country legally.
Presidential pardons covering such large swaths of people are not common, but they are also far from unprecedented. Most famously, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter fulfilled a campaign promise when he issued pardons to over 569,000 men who found various ways to evade being drafted into the Vietnam War.