President Barack Obama has ordered a review of U.S. deportation practices to see whether immigration enforcement can be more humane, the White House said Thursday.
In a meeting with Latino lawmakers, Obama said he was deeply concerned about the pain that families feel when they are separated because of a broken U.S. immigration system. He told the lawmakers he's asking Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to perform an inventory of current practices "to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law," the White House said in a statement.
The announcement comes as immigrant rights activists, frustrated by the lack of progress in Congress, have been pressuring Obama to halt all deportations. Obama had said he doesn't have the power to take that step unilaterally, although he has previously moved to ease deportations for some children brought into the U.S. illegally.
The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill last June with strong bipartisan support that would create a pathway for citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally, tighten border security and establish new visa and enforcement programs. The measure has languished in the House despite calls from Republican Party leaders, business groups, religious organizations and labor for lawmakers to act.
Taking part in the meeting Thursday were Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a prominent immigration advocate, and House Democratic Caucus Xavier Becerra of California also joined Obama in the Oval Office.