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The Activists Who Are Meeting With Obama On Deportations Are Skeptical And Frustrated

Some say a review isn't enough. "Our view is not that the president needs X number of months to conduct a review."

Posted on March 14, 2014, at 3:30 p.m. ET

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John Walker/Fresno Bee/MCT

President Obama is continuing his new effort on the deportations issue Friday, meeting with advocacy organizations — activists who are skeptical of and frustrated with the administration's approach.

The president announced Thursday evening a broad review of deportation policy after a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met. In interviews with five of the 17 organizations attending Friday's White House meeting, as well as activists who claim they are no longer invited to immigration meetings with the administration, many activists told BuzzFeed that a review of the current deportation policy is not enough.

"Our view is not that the president needs X number of months to conduct a review," said Kamal Essaheb of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). "He needs to act today. One-quarter of the people deported are parents of U.S. citizens. American kids continue to lose their parents to deportation, so the timeline is ASAP. The timeline is now."

Lorella Praeli, with United We Dream, who is attending at the Friday meeting agreed.

"A review is not enough," she said. "The administration knows its enforcement practices and knows what it does to families."

PICO's Eddie Carmona, a national network of faith-based community organizations, is also attending the meeting, and while he was more measured in his criticism of the administration, he said administrative review of deportation policies is a step in the right direction but not enough for families.

"We're going hold everyone accountable," Carmona said. "What happened this week with the resolution and with Republicans pushing forward legislation against deferred action is nothing to hang our hats on saying this is something good for immigration reform."

After increased pressure for deportation relief from activist groups in recent months, the CHC planned this week to release a resolution asking for administration action. That planned changed after CHC members met with Obama and he announced the review of deportation practices.

Many activists said they are disappointed with the CHC's decision to scrap the resolution — but some said either they still expect the CHC to vote on a resolution or that they've done good work bringing attention to the situation.

United We Dream's Praeli said, "Our expectation is that the CHC will vote on the resolution, our community has been organizing for a year, the public outcry is clear, and deportations need to be dramatically reduced."

Essaheb thinks the CHC has done a good job of pushing this issue into what is now the public eye. "Part of the president's decision to review deportation policies is because the CHC is responsible for making that happen," he said.

NCLR, which made waves last week when President Janet Murguia ended her silence on deportations and called Obama the "deporter-in-chief," and is attending the meeting, stressed that it will not let up on its three-prong strategy of pushing for a legislative solution, an administration solution and an electoral solution of registering Latinos to vote.

"On the one hand, House Republican inaction is inexcusable, their inaction doesn't prevent action from the president, it actually demands it," said NCLR Director of Immigration and Civic Engagement Clarissa Martinez, adding that the level of intensity surrounding easing deportations is something she has not seen since the push for deferred action before the 2012 election.

Cesar Vargas, a DREAMer and activist, said he used to be invited to the White House for meetings like this. He said that while he won't be inside, many of the activists going to the meeting have conferred and know what they want to hear.

"We think it's going to be a good meeting, there will be pushback from at least some people," Vargas said. "The main objective is don't buy into giving him time. Don't give into low-hanging fruit about fixing this waiver or that one. Push back on expanding deferred action. But mostly, whatever review report comes out should come out very soon."

Still, Rep. Zoe Lofgren said the president doesn't have limitless authority on deportations. "He has more authority than he has used but there are limits," she said. "I go home every week having met families that have been really destroyed by our current immigration policies. We've created a system that doesn't work for the American people and enforced it to a great extent to the tremendous trauma of people."