Brief features profiles of families whose lives would improve if immigration directives were allowed to take effect
WASHINGTON — Bet Tzedek joined a diverse coalition of 326 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups in an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, urging the court to lift the injunction that blocked the executive actions on immigration that President Obama announced in November 2014.
The Obama administration’s expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiative were stopped by a federal district court in Texas, and that court’s order subsequently was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The lawsuit against the president’s executive actions was brought by 26 states. Late last year the federal government appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
“If the injunction is lifted, many families will be more secure, without the looming threat that loved ones will be deported at a moment’s notice,” the brief filed by the civil rights groups argues. “Many deserving individuals will also have access to better jobs and the ability to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities. DHS has discretion to grant or deny applications for the initiatives at issue, and the concocted argument to the contrary should not be used to prevent individuals from even applying.”
The brief was filed by the National Immigration Law Center, the American Immigration Council, the Service Employees International Union, the Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Bet Tzedek and 319 other immigrants’ rights, civil rights, labor and service-provider organizations.
In the brief, the groups outline how families and communities would benefit from the initiatives. The brief provides examples of parents and individuals who would be able to contribute more fully to their communities if the immigration initiatives were allowed to take effect.
Among those impacted by the injunction are people who immigrated to the U.S. as children, did not meet the age and arrival date rules under the original DACA program (announced in 2012), but would qualify under the expanded program. These individuals continue contributing to their communities as they await relief from the courts. Also profiled are parents such as Dr. Alina Kipchumba, who came to the U.S. from Kenya 21 years ago, earned her Ph.D., and gave birth to a son in the U.S. She had work authorization but fell out of status when her son, who was born with a serious heart condition, had to undergo multiple heart surgeries that would not have been available in Kenya. Her son’s cardiologist warned that returning to Kenya would be a “death sentence” for her son.
“The stories in the brief illustrate the myriad ways that prospective beneficiaries of DAPA and expanded DACA could contribute to our country if given the chance. These initiatives constitute a lawful exercise of executive discretion, and we hope that the Supreme Court will affirm that in no uncertain terms,” said Melissa Crow, Legal Director, American Immigration Council.
“Groups from more than 40 states and all walks of life agree: we as a country are better off if we allow these initiatives to move forward,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “U.S. citizen children whose parents would qualify for this temporary relief from deportation will gain much-needed economic and emotional stability if the court allows these common sense measures to take effect.”
Advocates note that the Supreme Court should not be used to settle a political debate, with anti-immigrant activists trying to push through the courts what they haven’t been able to accomplish through the political process.
“This is a suspect legal challenge brought by Texas and followed up with support from the governors of Florida, Alabama, and North Carolina to tear apart families,” said Juan Cartagena, LatinoJustice PRLDEF President and General Counsel. “The president has clear legal authority on this matter. The purpose of the president’s action is to help immigrant families, many of which have mixed status, come from out of the shadows. These governors need to get out of the way and let the president do his job.”
The harmful effects of the injunction on families must be seriously considered, other advocates emphasized.
“We trust that the Supreme Court will recognize the historic tragedy of the detention and deportation machinery that rips families apart and erodes our justice system,” said María Rodríguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a partner of the Advancement Project. “The partisan battles waged by corporate interests and immigration demagogues, including Florida’s Pam Bondi, have done great harm to American tradition and families alike. Unfortunately, their extremism does not exist in a vacuum. It concretely affects thousands upon thousands of children and parents who either fear being torn apart or are condemned to live without one another because of deportation. Communities across the nation stand with immigrant families who need relief immediately and for policymakers to end detentions and deportations. We hope that the court will see the motivations behind the effort against DACA and DAPA, and the nefarious effects it has on vulnerable families.”
“President Obama’s deferred action policies would provide administrative relief to hardworking immigrant families who live in our communities and contribute to our economy every day,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “But because of this politically motivated, anti-immigrant lawsuit, the president’s initiatives have been frozen, forcing millions of parents and children to continue to live in the shadows, in constant fear of deportation and being separated from their families. We are confident the Supreme Court will uphold the president’s actions.”
“The lives of real people and their American-born children — not some political targets used in talking points on a campaign trail — are at stake in this case,” stated Rocio Saenz, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “We hope the stories of immigrants who reflect our American past and success speak to the justices of the court. But above all, we hope justice prevails against the politics of hate. Far too many families have waited to cross this threshold. It’s time our country set the path forward as we ultimately continue to fight for our north star, lasting immigration reform.”
The full legal brief is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/US-v-TX-amicus-immigrant-labor-civilrights-2016-03-08.pdf.
An interactive timeline outlining the process for review of the case by the Supreme Court is available at www.nilc.org/issues/litigation/texasvustimeline.
For more background on the legal challenges to executive action on immigration, see www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/understanding-legal-challenges-executive-action.