Immigration News: Obama DAPA Executive Action SCOTUS Hearing Unites Latino, Immigrant Rights Leaders
On Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments from supporters and opponents of President Barack Obama's 2014 immigration executive actions, all while Latino and immigrant rights groups rallied outside in support of the deferred action programs.
In Defense of DAPA and DACA's Expansion
Outside the Supreme Court, Latinos and immigrants, both documented and undocumented, some traveling as far as Texas and New York, gathered in support of Obama's two deferred action programs: the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the expanded guidelines of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Although Obama announced DAPA and DACA's expansion in November 2014, the state of Texas, followed by support from 25 other states, have sued the Obama administration to block the programs. Lower courts have ruled in favor of Texas and temporarily blocked the federal government from enacting DAPA and DACA's expansion. If DAPA and DACA were to be implemented, an estimated 4.9 million eligible undocumented immigrants would receive three-year renewable stays pending background checks and an application process through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency.
"Today's arguments show that it is time to allow swift implementation of the President's common-sense administrative actions that would allow millions of individuals to come out of the shadows, apply for work authorization, pay taxes, and -- most importantly -- remain united with their families," said Labor Council for Latin American Advancement Executive Director Hector Sanchez, who also serves as chair for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition comprising of 40 countrywide Latino organizations.
In a statement, Sanchez acknowledged that Obama acted with DAPA and DACA's expansion as a result of congressional inaction and the refusal by the Republican-led Congress to even consider a vote on immigration reform.
Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), one of the 40 groups within NHLA, presented the oral argument in support of Obama's executive actions. According to a statement released by MALDEF, Saenz said the Supreme Court justices "seemed closely engaged throughout the entire argument."
"As expected, the issue of Texas' standing to be in court and challenge the President's time-honored and constitutional exercise of discretion in immigration enforcement received particular attention. We look forward to a decision that will enable the Administration to provide relief to the Jane Does and so many others building families and contributing to our nation's prosperity," continued Saenz, who was representing three mothers from Texas who would be eligible to apply for DAPA.
Latinos Lawmakers Take A Stand for Immigrant Families
Latino lawmakers were also standing by in support of DAPA and DACA's expansion. On Monday morning, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaking outside the Supreme Court, said DACA and DAPA are legitimate executive orders especially as previous presidents have set the precedence in also issuing immigration executive action.
"We believe that today is a day where we will achieve justice, it will be the beginning of that process because we believe we have the law on our side, we have the moral authority on our side and we believe that in end of the day that even though there are only eight justices, there will be enough justices to uphold DACA and DAPA and keep families together and be able to end the nightmare that the knock on the door is nothing more but a neighbor who wants to come in," said Menendez.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairwoman Linda Sánchez, D-Calif., in a statement, recognized the two deferred action programs as a "game changer" for the Latino community.
"DACA and DAPA are two simple but important actions that would allow young people and parents of U.S. citizens the ability to stay in this country, work, and pay taxes. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus remains optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule on the right side of history," said Sánchez.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., the highest-ranking Latino in the House of Representatives, commented about his family's immigration history and the importance of Monday's hearings.
"My father was a construction worker most of his life. My mother, who came from Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico to the United States, never had a chance to go to college either and became a clerical worker. But my parents did nothing but build this country," said Becerra. "They worked very hard to make this a better land for so many people, and certainly for their four kids, who had a chance to go on to get a college degree. Does the Supreme Court want to be behind those who build this country and build dreams? Or do they want to support those who build walls?"
"It is time for us to stand up," the House Democratic Caucus chairman added. "We are ready to work with the Supreme Court and make sure that we will continue to let Americans, including immigrants who have become Americans, build this country and build America."
Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), made it known that more than 1.5 million eligible voters have a family member impacted by DAPA and DACA and many Latino and immigrant families are closely monitoring the Supreme Court case.
"DACA and DAPA are smart and moral immigration policies that keep hardworking families together, while allowing them to continue contributing to our country, but House Republicans have done everything in their power, including an unprecedented and cruel floor vote, to undo them. While I am confident that DACA and DAPA will withstand the test of this hearing, voters will remember these Donald Trump-like attacks against their communities this November," said Luján.
How the Lawsuit Started
In late 2014, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who now serves as the Lone Star State's governor, initiated the lawsuit against Obama's executive actions. Abbott claimed Obama breached his executive authority and didn't consider financial impacts affecting U.S. states.
After appeals, the Obama administration encountered setbacks in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which provided the temporary injunction preventing the federal government from implementing DACA's expanded guidelines and DAPA. The U.S. Department of Justice requested the Supreme Court review the case, and the court agreed.
Abbott's lawsuit has the support from other Republican governors and attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The Supreme Court, currently comprising of eight justices, is expected to deliver a decision in June. In the case of a 4-4 tie, the ruling by the lower courts will stand.