(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) is among the Democrats pressing Congress to take up immigration reform. On Tuesday, he told a conference call that deportations are breaking families apart and leaving children in foster care.
"So the human toll has been horrific. This president, by implementation of existing law, has been forced to deport a huge number of Americans."
Although Garcia may consider the deportees to be "Americans," legally they are not. But they might become citizens if Garcia and other immigration advocates get their way.
Democrats are urging Republicans to sign their discharge petition, which would force a House vote on immigration reform. They said they have 191 of the 218 signatures they need to force the bill to a vote.
"This is our last effort to do this in a legislative fix. That is what we need -- a legislative fix that fixes this problem once and for all," Garcia said.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), also part of the conference call, said the people affected by the "broken" immigration system "look like America."
"This morning we're here for Feli, a mother who left her kids behind in the Philippines to find work here and has been waiting 15 years for her kids to be allowed over. We're here for Maria, an American citizen whose husband, if deported back to Mexico, would devastate them and their three kids emotionally and financially. We're here for William,, whose mother in Ireland passed away but could only send a cellphone video of his message to the funeral because he has no path to citizenship."
Chu said Democrats are tired of waiting for Republicans to bring up an immigration reform bill: "And now with this petition, we are saying, put the bill on the floor for a vote. Sign the petition. This is a Hispanic and an Asian issue. It's a black and a white issue. Most importantly, it's an American issue."
Rep. Jared Polis, another Democrat on the conference call, told reporters that if Republicans do not sign the discharge petition, "then the president, as our leader, will do whatever he can to try to address the situation. But there's nothing the president can ever do to confer a pathway to citizenship on people who are here. Only Congress can do that. And even if the president takes limited actions, there will still be the need for this Congress or future Congresses to act."
Polis also said he met with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last week: "He gave us a time frame, and there are some fixes that are going to be coming sooner, which is in the next few weeks. And then there are some broader policy changes that will be coming later this year. But I think if we look at a time frame, you know, we're giving them (Republicans) til June."
Democrats say their legislation, H.R. 15, has 200 co-sponsors, including three Republicans -- Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) David Valadao (Calif.) and Rep. Jeff Denham (Calif.) But as mentioned above, only 191 House members have signed the discharge petition to bring the bill to a floor vote.
While Congressional Democrats were pressing immigration reform on Capitol Hill, President Obama was discussing immigration reform with faith leaders at the White House.
"The faith leaders shared with the president stories about the impact the failure to fix the immigration system has on families in their congregations and communities. The president expressed deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system," the White House said in a statement.
"He emphasized that while his administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress."