(CNSNews.com) - The message from House Democrats on Tuesday: Don't fear the Syrian refugees, and grant legal status to millions of people who are in the country illegally.
"Especially as we approach Thanksgiving, we should remember the cruel impact of our broken immigration system on millions of families," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a news conference on Capitol Hill. "We must rededicate ourselves to advancing immigration -- comprehensive immigration reform that honors families and strengthens communities."
Pelosi called it "just stunning" for people to say that President Obama doesn't have the constitutional authority to grant temporary legal status, including work permits and Social Security numbers, to the alien parents of American-born children.
As CNSNews.com reported earlier this month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently blocked President Obama's plan to give temporary legal status to some 5 million illegal immigrants under his "Deferred Action for Parents of Americans" (DAPA) program.
The administration has asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, and House Democrats are lining up behind the White House:
"At our meeting this morning, our ranking member on the Immigration Committee, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, a person who has been an immigration lawyer, taught immigration law, chaired the Immigration Committee, presented us with the option of signing an amicus brief in this case. One of the points that will be made in the brief is about precedent and the president's authority," Pelosi said.
She pointed to "bold actions" taken by Republican presidents to patch earlier immigration laws.
"Continuing to stall essential elements of immigration -- the immigration accountability executive action issued by President Obama -- only perpetuates a broken immigration system that tears families apart fails to serve the national interest," Pelosi said. "We must not continue to defer the dreams of hardworking immigrant families who give so much to our communities."
To put a human face on the "cruel impact" of current immigration law, Democrats invited Anabel Dominguez to speak. She and her husband have been in the U.S. illegally for years, but they have an American-born son.
Dominguez said President Obama's DAPA program would shield them from deportation: "We have (struggled) for so long and have so much to contribute for -- to this country," she said. "The time is now to implement DACA and DAPA for my family and all the families that will (get) the benefits for the execution of this action."
'We...need to be accepting of refugees'
Also speaking at Tuesday's news conference, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, took the lead on the refugee issue:
"[W]e respect and understand the need to be accepting of refugees into our country -- people who by definition as refugees must show that they fear death or persecution in order to have an opportunity to come into this country."
"You hate to be driven by fear," Becerra said. "But perhaps things that are worse than fear when it comes to how you treat people. I mentioned that over some 750,000 refugees have come in since 9/11 into this country and not a one has ever faced arrest or terrorism -- or some type of terrorist activity.
(At a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) noted that the Justice Department brought terrorism charges against a Bosnian refugee in February.)
"The process that you must go through as a refugee to come into this country is extensive. It is long," Becerra said. "And you must go through the most thorough of background checks. In fact, there's no form of person coming into the country from another land that requires more inspection and more rigorous inspection than those who wish to qualify as refugees."
Becerra did not mention that Syrian refugees pose a particularly difficult problem, given the turmoil in Syria and the lack of reliable data that could be used to conduct thorough background checks.