Activists press Obama administration for more relief from deportation

Eleven activists living without legal status in Georgia and other states are pressing the Obama administration to grant more immigrants relief from deportation.

To bring attention to their campaign, the activists on Wednesday applied to the federal government for a deportation deferral. For a variety of reasons, they don’t qualify for the Obama administration’s controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

That program offers renewable two-year reprieves from deportation and federal work permits. Those eligible include immigrants who were illegally brought here before turning 16, who attended school here and who have not been convicted of felonies.

Among the activists applying for deportation deferrals is Eduardo Samaniego of Kennesaw. Samaniego, 22, who runs a nonprofit organization in Georgia, doesn’t qualify for DACA because he came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 17.

“It’s to make a point that people need relief,” Samaniego said this week as he prepared to attend a news conference in Washington with two immigrant rights groups backing the campaign, Define American and the National Immigration Law Center. “And it’s not only about parents who have U.S. citizen” children or children who are eligible for DACA.

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the founder of Define American, has joined Samaniego in applying for deferred action. The Filipino native doesn’t qualify for DACA because of his age.

Vargas and Samaniego are speaking out as immigration overhaul legislation remains stalled in Congress. There are an estimated 11.4 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S., and most of them aren’t eligible for DACA.

President Barack Obama has said he will take executive action without movement in Congress, though he has not offered specifics. Obama’s Republican critics in Congress have objected to DACA and any efforts to expand it, saying the program is an illegal end run around the legislative branch.

The president plans to act at the end of this summer.

“The president spoke in the Rose Garden, asking his team — specifically, the secretary of homeland security and the attorney general — to look at what he can do, given that House Republicans failed to bring up the comprehensive immigration bill, the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters this month. “He asked his team to take a look, and they’re going to report back in to him.”

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