Pelosi Urges Obama Administration to Use More Discretion on Deportations

Pelosi wants Obama administration to deport criminals, not just illegal immigrants.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks about the pending bipartisan budget compromise on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
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For months, immigrant advocates had lobbied on Capitol Hill to halt deportations until Congress passes a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

They thought no one was listening. But over the weekend, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi illustrated she has heard them loud and clear.

[READ: Obama Heckled at Immigration Speech in San Francisco]

During an interview with Telemundo Sunday, Pelosi called on the Obama administration to observe more caution before it deports immigrants in the country illegally if they have committed no additional offenses.

"Our view of the law is, if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation. If someone has broken the law ... that is a different story," Pelosi said.

Immigrant rights groups who have been advocating for months were pleasantly surprised by Pelosi's comments.

"It is great. I hope that she is really pushing for the president to take action on this issue while we work for immigration reform," says Erika Andiola, a spokewoman for the Dream Action Coalition.

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on Immigration]

Andiola, an undocumented immigrant herself, is familiar with the heartache of deportation: In January, her mother was detained and threatened with removal.

Andiola mobilized the network of resources she had amassed as an immigration advocate and rolled out a public campaign to stop her mother from being deported. Thousands called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 40,000 signed a petition and congressmen also made calls on her behalf.

Her mother was put on a bus headed for the border. The bus turned around.

"The problem is that a lot of people who don't have connections, they get deported and nobody really knows. Nobody finds out," Andiola says.

Since the beginning of his time in office, President Barack Obama has deported nearly 2 million immigrants -- a rate expected to outpace that of former President George W. Bush.

Obama has argued that his administration cannot unilaterally halt deportations, adding in a September Telemundo interview that it would be "very difficult to defend legally."

[WATCH: Teen Girls Grill John Boehner on Immigration]

The White House has put the blame squarely on the House of Representatives, which has yet to pass a single immigration bill. The Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill in June.

The White House also has argued it has prioritized deportations to focus on criminals, not immigrants who are merely in the country illegally. A Pew Research Survey, however, found that of the 392,000 immigrants deported in 2011, just 48 percent of them were deported because they broke the law.

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