Democrats in Congress are finally getting some spine when it comes to President Obama and deportations.

Recently, a small cadre of House Democrats, led by Tucson’s Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, called on the president to cease deportations, which have caused great harm to thousands of families across the country. The Obama administration is on the way to setting a record for the highest level of deportations of undocumented immigrants, expected to reach 2 million this year.

The 27 representatives also asked Obama to expand the deferred action program, or DACA, which grants temporary stays of deportation to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children by their parents.

The critics called it the moral action to take.

“This is not to abandon comprehensive immigration reform for executive action: This is to say that if you truly care — and we all do — about the comfort, the well-being and the security of millions of families across this country, then we have to explore all options,” Grijalva said at a Capitol press conference announcing the letter on Dec. 5.

It’s about time Democrats begin to sound off on the president’s deportation policy. They have roundly and loudly criticized Republicans, specifically the GOP House majority, for failing to take up comprehensive immigration reform. But they have been quiet when it comes to the president’s recording-breaking deportations.

The deportations, which have come with the complicity of local police agencies across the country, have separated families, sending a parent or both back to their country of origin while their U.S.-born children remain in this country.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, almost 205,000 parents of U.S.-born children were deported between July 1, 2010 and Sept. 31, 2012. That was nearly 23 percent of all individuals deported during that period. The real number is likely even higher since parents do not always admit to having children, the American Immigration Council said.

In too many cases, legal residents have been deported. And too many times, the deported individuals are noncriminals who committed a minor traffic violation — lack of a light over the license plate, failure to have a driver’s license or not having mud flaps on the truck.

“The senseless opposition that neither reflects the public will nor the moral responsibility we hold should not allow us to prolong the needless suffering of those who could so soon have their place in our society fully recognized. In fact, taking a strong step toward granting relief would move us in the direction of where the immigration debate rightfully should start, with the legalization of 11 million men and women who call the United States their home,” said the letter.

Grijalva and his colleagues are right to call on the president to take more aggressive executive steps. The administration has attempted to focus more attention on deporting serious criminals, but the real crime comes when fathers and mothers are deported when stopped by local police.

“Let us not take these policies lightly,” the letter said. “Every deportation of a father, a sister, or a neighbor tears at our social consciousness; every unnecessary raid and detention seriously threatens the fabric of civil liberties we swore to uphold.

“We are talking about American families and American communities. Criminalizing American families or giving local law enforcement the responsibility to choose who stays and who goes, is not the right option.”

Ernesto Portillo Jr. is editor of La Estrella de Tucsón. He can be contacted at or at 573-4187.