The father of a man killed by an illegal immigrant in a car crash has challenged President Obama to visit his son’s grave before declaring any executive action halting deportations.
In a letter that Don Rosenberg sent last month to Mr. Obama through top officials at the Homeland Security Department, the grieving father said his son Drew might be alive had the federal government deported illegal immigrants who had run-ins with the law.
“My son and all of the others are considered collateral damage in the quest for votes and campaign contributions,” he wrote. “Illegal immigration is not a victimless crime.”
Mr. Rosenberg’s son was killed while riding his motorcycle in 2010 when Roberto Galo, an illegal immigrant, made an illegal turn and crashed into him. Mr. Rosenberg said the man, who was driving without a license, ran over his son three times as he tried to flee the scene.
The grieving father wrote the letter as Mr. Obama was pondering more unilateral steps on immigration. The president said the moves are justified by a broken system and the need to keep families together in the U.S.
But Mr. Rosenberg said the immigration debate focuses too heavily on illegal immigrant families and not enough on American families affected by the actions of illegal immigrants.
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“Before you illegally say, ‘Welcome to America’ to those who have caused so much pain and suffering, on your next trip to California let me take you to Drew’s grave, and you tell him this is the right thing to do,” Mr. Rosenberg wrote.
Mr. Rosenberg, a self-described “lifelong, very liberal Democrat,” has become active in pushing for illegal immigrants to be deported. He calculated that his son was one of about 3,000 people killed by illegal immigrants in car crashes in 2010.
Mr. Galo served 43 days in jail for his actions in the crash, and officials at the Homeland Security Department initially decided he could remain in the U.S. because his crime didn’t rise to the level of Mr. Obama’s priorities for deportation. Under pressure from Mr. Rosenberg, however, officials reopened the case and deported Mr. Galo in 2012.
Mr. Rosenberg said he raised his concerns with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and gave the letter to Mr. Mayorkas to transmit to the president.
The Homeland Security Department didn’t say whether the letter was given to Mr. Obama, nor did it provide a comment on Mr. Rosenberg’s accusations.
Over the past five years, Mr. Obama and the Homeland Security Department have issued policies making millions of illegal immigrants safe from any real danger of deportation. Instead, they have focused on those with the most serious criminal records and those who have returned after being deported.
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Even with those guidelines, the administration has deported more than 2 million immigrants since Mr. Obama took office, angering Hispanic advocates.
Under intense pressure, the president asked Mr. Johnson to find ways to halt even more deportations and set an end-of-summer deadline to take action.
Mr. Obama signaled last week that he might miss that self-imposed deadline. He said the surge of children crossing the border illegally had become a distraction.
Analysts said it’s more likely that the president is looking at the election map for November and calculating whether unilateral action would hurt Democrats’ chances to hold on to Senate seats in Republican-leaning states.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest disputed that notion Monday and insisted that Mr. Obama is focused on the best policy. He struggled to answer questions about the timeline.
“It’s hard for me to, at least at this point, draw any clear conclusions about what the president’s timing will be,” Mr. Earnest said. “There is the chance that it could be before the end of the summer. There is the chance that it could be after the summer.”
Mr. Earnest said the issue would be moot had House Republicans taken action on immigration reform instead of leaving Mr. Obama to enforce a system that all sides agree is broken.
He said Mr. Obama wants to have “a fact-based debate so the American people actually understand what the consequences are for acting within the confines of the law to repair our broken immigration system.”