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O'Malley rolls out immigration platform

O'Malley rolls out immigration platform
Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, speaks at a the National Council of La Raza Annual Conference, Monday, July 13, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) ORG XMIT: MOCR111 (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley said Tuesday he would significantly expand the use of executive action to defer the deportation of millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

In the latest of a series of detailed policy papers from his campaign, the former Maryland governor said he would expand President Barack Obama's controversial deferred action program to "all individuals" covered by a sweeping and bipartisan immigration bill approved by the Senate in 2013.

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"We are, and always have been, a nation of immigrants and our immigration laws must reflect our values," O'Malley said in a statement. "That's why we need to reform a system that is callous, irrational, inhumane, and unjust."

Frustrated by lack of progress on the issue in Congress, Obama announced a series of executive actions in November to defer deportation for a wider universe of immigrants brought to the country as young people as well as the immigrant parents of legal residents. That effort has been controversial, and is also tied up in federal court.

O'Malley's paper included other proposals, as well. If elected, he vowed to extend health coverage under the Affordable Care Act to so-called dreamers, limit detentions to immigrants who pose a threat to public safety and end a controversial program that allows local police -- including the Frederick County Sheriff's Office -- to enforce immigration laws.

The former governor -- who is struggling to gain traction in the early presidential contest against better known Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- has a substantial record on immigration issues during his two terms in Annapolis. He helped push legislation through Annapolis in 2011 that provides in-state tuition at state universities for young immigrants brought to the country illegally, and he also ushered in a system that allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.

More recently, O'Malley last year limited the circumstances under which the state would honor requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold immigrants in the Baltimore City jail beyond their schedule release. A subsequent letter from the Maryland Attorney General, questioning the constitutionality of those holding, caused the governor -- and several counties in the state -- to further limit those circumstances.

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