Coalition Letter to President Obama - Use Presidential Pardon Powers to Keep Immigrant Families Together

CCR joined a coalition letter addressed to President Obama, coordinated by Make the Road NY, Center for Popular Democracy and National Day Laborer Organizing Network, urges him to use his presidential pardon powers. Learn more here.

President Obama: Use Presidential Pardon Powers to Keep Immigrant Families Together

Dear President Obama, 

As the final weeks of your presidency approach, the undersigned organizations urge you to issue a pardon to all lawful permanent residents who are deportable based solely on minor or old criminal offenses.  White House officials have publicly expressed concern about using the pardon power on behalf of groups that lack lawful status because, the officials assert, a pardon cannot convey legal status.  Lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, already have legal status and many of have lived in the United States legally for very long periods of time.  Upending their American families—many of which include U.S.-citizen spouses, parents and children—based solely on minor convictions for which they have paid their debt to society is a disproportionate double penalty that serves no purpose.  By pardoning the civil deportation charges that can be triggered by minor or old criminal convictions, you can provide hundreds of thousands of American families with durable protection against deportation.   

As the Supreme Court has recognized, under current immigration laws, deportation is “nearly an automatic result for a broad class of noncitizen offenders.” In addition to more serious offenses, very low-level convictions such as petite theft—which includes offense as minor as turnstile-jumping—or simple misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, can trigger deportation.  This holds true even when such offenses occurred decades ago or when the underlying criminal sentences involved little or no jail time.  In effect, people who are not U.S. citizens receive an additional penalty for any criminal offense:  they first serve the sentence they receive from the criminal courts, and then face near-automatic deportation on the basis of the same convictions. A longtime lawful permanent resident with a conviction for marijuana possession, for example, can face deportation to a country she may have left as a child and potentially permanent separation from her U.S. citizen spouse and children.  

A presidential pardon for low-level offenders would temper some of the most draconian consequences of these laws.  Your Administration has already taken the important step of deprioritizing the removal of some individuals with very minor convictions.  While we believe that the deportation of many people who fall within the current enforcement priorities is disproportionate to their offenses or manner of entry, at minimum, we urge you to make permanent your Administration’s established priorities by pardoning all permanent residents who fall outside of those priorities. Doing so would protect between 100,000 and 200,000 families and would be consistent with your groundbreaking clemency initiative and with your other criminal justice reforms, all of which recognize the harmful effects of the over-criminalization of society generally and of substance abuse specifically.  The pardon proposed here would build upon these programs by avoiding the most disproportionate cases of deportation triggered by minor and old convictions.

In issuing the pardon we propose here, you would follow in the footsteps of Presidents Washington, Adams, Madison and Lincoln, who all issued categorical pardons protecting significant groups of people when it was in the national interest to shelter such individuals from vindictively hostile political winds. The Supreme Court has been clear that such broad categorical reprieves are consistent with the presidential pardon power, need no legislative sanction, and further, that the pardon power is not limited to the criminal context. Most recently, President Jimmy Carter, issued a categorical, unconditional pardon to approximately a half million men who had broken the draft laws to avoid taking part in the Vietnam War. The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel advised President Carter that his broad pardon could protect individuals not only from criminal prosecution but also from civil immigration charges.  Thus, the pardon we request is well founded in historical practice and in legal precedent.

For all of these reasons, a categorical presidential pardon can ensure fair treatment for permanent residents with minor or old convictions.  By signing a single piece of paper you could provide immediate and durable protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of such individuals, and could keep together many American families.  We urge you to issue such a pardon immediately and to keep families together who otherwise will soon become the targets of excessive and indiscriminate immigration enforcement.

This letter has been signed onto by the following organizations:
Action NC
Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus
Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ)
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Arkansas Community Organization
Arkansas United Community Coalition (AUCC)
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
California Immigrant Policy Center
Causa Oregon
Center for Community Change
Center for Policy Initiatives
Center for Popular Democracy (CPD)
Centro Legal de la Raza
Chinese Progressive Association
Churches United for Fair Housing
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC)
Colorado People’s Alliance (COPA)
Community Labor United
Community Labor United (CLU)
Comunidades Unidas
Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas (COFEM)
Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement
Detention Watch Network
Dolores Street Community Services
El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos
El Pueblo Inc.
Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC)
Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR)
Grassroots Leadership
Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama
Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN)
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)
Immigrant Defense Project (IDP)
Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)
Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI)
Junta for Progressive Action
Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC)
Korean Resource Center (KRC)
Latin American Coalition
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Lutheran Social Services of New York
Maine People's Alliance
Make the Road CT
Make the Road New Jersey
Make the Road New York (MRNY)
Make the Road Pennsylvania
Maryland Communities United
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)
Michigan United
Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment
Montana Organizing Project
Movement of Immigrants in America (MIA)
National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON)
National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC)
National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIP-NLG)
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Partnership for New Americans
New American Leaders Project
New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrant Rights (NHAIR-MIRA)
New Sanctuary Coalition of NY
New Virginia Majority
Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NMCIR)
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
NY Communities for Change
Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLE)
Pangea Legal Services
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
People’s Action
Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN)
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN)
Promise Arizona (PAZ)
Safe Places for the Advancement of Community and Equity (SPACEs)
Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and Families
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN)
Somos Un Pueblo Unido
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Southeast Immigrant Rights Network I SEIRN
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
Sunflower Community Action
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC)
Texas Organizing Project
The Bronx Defenders
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC)
United for a New Economy Colorado (UNE-CO)
United We Dream (UWD)
Vocal NY

Last modified 

December 21, 2016