What is the Status of President Obama’s Executive Action?

by Laura Johnston Kohl

            Many of us who work with, live with, teach, marry, and build our futures with immigrants, are intimately tied to their futures. Sometimes, we hear a figure of 12,000,000 undocumented immigrants in our country. The 12,000,000 figure misrepresents the actual number of immigrants, intimate families and partners, and communities that embrace all of these hardworking people.

Historically, immigrants have come to the United States – even before the colonists had established these United States – fleeing their homelands in their search for freedom and a better life. That is STILL the reason immigrants come to this country. How was that a good idea for our own ancestors and such an intolerable idea for new immigrants? We have lost that vision. Our rich nation has forgotten.

In November, 2014, President Obama announced his “Immigration Accountability Executive Action.” He extended the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), allowed for a three-year term rather than two-year, and he created another group with suspended deportation – the parents of these students. That program was called DAPA – Deferred Action for Parents Accountability. President Obama did this because these people of all ages had their lives held in limbo. Both children and adults lived in fear that their mixed homes – homes with citizens, legal immigrants, and undocumented immigrants – would be torn apart by deportations. [Note that this Executive Action does not touch the original DACA program that Obama announced in 2012. That program is still in effect, for the shorter term of two years. People are able to reapply and get extensions of their DACA status.]

President Obama’s vision was not shared by some in this country. That group stonewalled and fought the Executive Action, even though U.S. Presidents have used the Executive Action to mandate changes many times. Texas and twenty-five other states filed a lawsuit to stop the amnesty. An injunction was put in place by the Fifth Circuit Court on February 2015. The Action has been on hold since that time. The Obama Administration appealed the ruling to a higher Court – the U.S. Supreme Court.

In mid-March the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. It directed the parties to argue this question on their brief: “Whether the Guidance violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution.” This is the provision that says the President must faithfully execute the laws Congress passes. That suggests that the justices want to investigate whether the President has the power to take these actions. (https://www.numbersusa.com/news/supreme-court-will-hear-dapa-case.)

The Court will hear the Texas vs. United States case in April and likely announce its decision in June.

There are many considerations now. Immigration groups are encouraging the eligible DACA and DAPA individuals to complete the necessary paperwork for these programs, right now. Get ready so that in this period between the Court’s decision in favor of President Obama, and his remaining seven months in Office, paperwork can be processed efficiently and expediently.

Also, with the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, the Court is sometimes dividing votes with four tending to liberal, and four tending to more conservative. If the final decision is tied 4-4, the decision of the Fifth Circuit Court will stay.

Since the presidential election, and the seating of a new president, is less than a year away, much depends on the new president. The Democratic candidates support this action, and in fact, support fixing our broken immigration system. The Republican candidates have all stated that they will stop this action, and that they do not agree with it.

In response to the decision of the Supreme Court to hear the case, a coalition of immigrant rights groups have proposed a “Fasting for DAPA Chain” Campaign and “The Immigrant Trail Silent Protest.” Beginning March 14 and continuing through April 18, immigrant rights workers, DACA and DAPA-eligible immigrants, and supporters, will pick a day to “Fast in Support” of the Extension of DACA and the new DAPA Action. That pathway of people fasting will lead back to the Supreme Court. We all acknowledge that we need to be vocal and active in pursuing the DREAM, this dream that our country will honor immigrants today. Just as we treasure our own ancestry and our own path which have us living in this country, we want to welcome these hardworking and brave more-recent immigrants.

Laura Johnston Kohl, a bilingual educator, author, and long-time activist who lives in North County. She is an advocate of human and civil rights and works to protect these rights locally and nationally.

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