The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on April 18 from 26 states attempting to stop President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration, potentially affecting millions of undocumented immigrants.
In November 2014, Obama’s executive action bypassed congressional inaction to shield 4.3 million illegal immigrants from deportation and grant them temporary worker eligibility. But states quickly challenged the president, and a federal court blocked the programs in February 2015. After losing again at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama administration appealed to the Supreme Court to make a final decision.
Republican governors and attorneys general make up most of the plaintiffs in the case. They call Obama’s actions an overreach of executive power and claim forcing states to accommodate the new programs is unconstitutional. But without counter immigration reforms from either party in Congress, the Supreme Court will determine the framework of America’s future immigration policies.
Obama’s immigration executive orders began with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), signed in 2012 to allow immigrants who entered the country as minors with their parents to pay a fee and apply for new temporary assistance programs, as well as a guarantee against deportation. In 2014, Obama tried to expand DACA with the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which applies to illegal immigrants who have children born in the United States. So far, more than 700,000 people have applied for DACA.
Texas, the lead plaintiff, argues the programs will cost millions of dollars to subsidize driver’s licenses for immigrants enrolling in DAPA and claims it is not the federal government’s role to put that burden on individual states.
“Basically the president has stepped in and taken over what normally would be associated with Congress,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, according to CNN. “Congress makes the laws.”
The Democrat-controlled Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform in 2013, but the legislation died in the Republican-controlled House. That failure and the unlikely prospect of comprehensive reform in the near future prompted Obama to opt for executive orders.
Legal scholars are divided on whether he has the authority to order immigration officials to ignore, or delay implementing, federal law. But Obama’s moves are not unprecedented: Former President George H. W. Bush issued a similar order during his term, but on a much smaller scale.
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said on Saturday Obama’s actions are flawed, but certainly within his power.
“It is fair to argue that the solution must come from Congress—and indeed, eventually it must,” he said. “But politics’ stranglehold that has blocked legislative solutions is not about to end. In the meantime, we must have a better answer than an indefinite threat of deportation for families trying to build better lives here.”
Rodriguez said he does not agree with everything in Obama’s programs, but while Congress remains stagnant, it’s important to keep families together until they have a long-term solution: “I pray that compassion fills the hearts of our leaders in Congress, our president, and the Supreme Court justices. Real people’s lives and futures hang in the balance.”
Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Court during arguments, shutting down the street in front of the building to support Obama’s actions.
Dozens of protesters wielded pink heart-shaped signs that read “Keep Families Together” while speakers blared Latin music and individuals yelled chants on megaphones.
Louis Perez, of Silver Spring, Md., emigrated from El Salvador 20 years ago. Now an American citizen, he joined protesters on Monday to advocate for friends he knows will be affected if immigration reforms unravel.
“This is a continuous fight, and it looks like our leaders have their hands tied, but there is always something more they can do,” he told me while carrying a 4-foot-tall sign that read “I am an American.” “They should find the means to get people documented; it’s in the best interest of the country. People need to have normal lives and be productive members of society and not just live in the shadows.”
Perez said he was grateful for the large turnout to support immigrants because many are afraid to show their faces publicly, uncertain of their legal status in America.
Kasey Chavez, an immigrant from Peru and now an American citizen living in Fairfax, Va., had a similar message.
“People want to feel secure they can work and have a life with dignity,” she told me. “Instead of being united, we are fighting against each other.”
The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision by June.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: April 25, 2016