Gutierrez: Obama Can Give 'Safe Harbor' to 'Millions' of Undocumented Immigrants

By Susan Jones | July 1, 2014 | 8:28 AM EDT

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) (AP photo)

( - Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said on Tuesday that if Republicans want to come back to the bargaining table on immigration reform, that's fine.

"But in the interim period, I believe the President of the United States has already in statute -- in the law -- the ability to heal and put into safe harbor millions of undocumented immigrants while the Congress of the United States finally decides that it's going to take action," he told MSNBC.

Last week, a frustrated Gutierrez, in a speech on the House floor, said Republicans have successfully blocked immigration reform legislation for 2014: “You're done. Leave the field," he said. "Your chance to play a role in how immigration and deportation policies are carried out this year are over. Having been given ample time to craft legislation, you failed.”

Gutierrez said it's now up to President Obama to act, and on Monday, Obama indicated that he will begin "a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress."

Speaking Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Gutierrez said the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has given Obama a four-page list of actions he can take on his own -- "within the law."

First, he mentioned the 600,000 young people, the undocumented "dreamers," who had their deportation waived by President Obama in June 2012. "Everybody's happy. They're studying, they're working," Gutierrez said. "Why not their parents?"

Gutierrez also mentioned the 72,000 children who have seen their parents deported; and the "5 million American-citizen children who every day fear losing their mom and dad. Why can't he (Obama) put those moms and dads in a safe place so that they can raise their children? I think that's in the national interest. And that's truly family values."

Gutierrez said another category to be addressed by the president is military spouses -- U.S. troops who marry illegal immigrants. "The president can simply parole them in place and say, 'You know what? On with your lives. Here's your green card and move forward.' So there are many things the president can do..."

"Just as Republicans have said No, no, no, I expect the president to be broad, expansive and generous in the use of his prosecutorial discretion," Gutierrez said.

The lawmaker also sent a warning to Republicans who won't go along with the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year.

"What they forget is 900,000 Latinos turn 18 every year, and yes, they're all citizens of the United States. Look, the demographic tsunami that they're going to have to confront in 2016 is one that they can't overcome. So if you want to be a party of regions, you can be  a party of regions. But you'll never be a national party again."

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