Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

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Daily Democrat: Supreme Court leaves undocumented immigrants out in the cold

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hundreds of thousands of people living illegally across California are now facing a sobering new reality: The U.S. Supreme Court isn’t coming to their rescue and their fate may be tied more precariously than ever to the outcome of this year’s presidential election.

News that the high court deadlocked, blocking President Barack Obama’s immigration plan from moving forward, quickly spread anxiety across a state with one of the nation’s largest concentrations of unauthorized immigrants.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said the court stalemate “leaves millions of families in America facing a troubled and uncertain future.” And Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the ruling is “not what America stands for.”

Meanwhile, those calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration hailed the court’s 4-4 vote.

“This is a victory for Americans,” said Tustin resident Betty Robinson, a member of the Santa Ana Tea Party Patriots, as she headed to a celebratory rally outside Rancho Cucamonga City Hall.

The court’s ruling leaves in place a Texas federal judge’s order that halted Obama’s plan to offer deportation relief and work permits to more than 4 million immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents. The vote also blocks the president’s plan to expand a program he created in 2012 that offers deportation relief and work permits to younger immigrants brought to the country as children.

Texas, joined by 25 other states, sued the administration, arguing among other things that the president went beyond his executive authority. The case divided the nation and now returns to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who issued a 2015 injunction that prompted the Supreme Court decision. Eventually, the case could return to the Supreme Court. By then, the next president is likely to have named a successor for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier this year, leaving the court ideologically split.

In the backdrop of Thursday’s announcement is a presidential campaign where the Republican presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, has focused intensely on illegal immigration and calls to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Nearly half of the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States could have benefited from Obama’s plans.

California has the largest number of undocumented immigrants who could have been eligible for new temporary legal residency and work permits — an estimated 1.5 million statewide. The highest concentration was in Los Angeles County — in excess of half a million.

Los Angeles County, with more than 1 million undocumented residents, has the nation’s largest number of unauthorized immigrants who could have benefited from the deportation relief plan, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. They included close to 100,000 parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, the center reported last year.

When she heard the news, Anabel Cuevas, 28, of Los Angeles felt “mostly frustration.” Her family moved here from Mexico when she was only a few months old and she was granted status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Her younger brother was born in the United States and is a citizen.

But her parents, who both work and just bought a home in Duarte six months ago, were up to qualify.

Thursday’s decision throws that into limbo, for now. So what next?

“Everyone is looking toward a new president and those (choices) are very polar opposites,” said Cuevas, who is a project manager for a digital marketing agency in Culver City and lives in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. She recently married.

“My parents just bought their home six months ago. They were (anticipating) finally having stable jobs and not having to be afraid. But, honestly, one thing my parents always taught me was, no matter what goes on, be resilient and show up to work each day.”

Advocates said they are determined to move ahead with more naturalization and voter registration drives, improved assistance to immigrants and intensified efforts to reduce deportations.

“We will be turning our anger and disappointment into mobilizing millions of voters to remind Congress and anti-immigrants in November that we will not let them get away with hijacking our rights and trying to separate our families,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

Others, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice, will focus additional attention on comprehensive immigration information programs and determining whether individuals might qualify for other types of deportation relief, said attorney Jacqueline Dan.

The organization said it also wants to “make clear” that applications for the DACA program are still being accepted and are not affected by the ruling.

There are more than 400,000 Asian immigrants nationally, the organization reports, among the nearly 5 million who would have qualified for the expanded DACA program and the newer so-called DAPA program, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.

Lawmakers, clerics and immigrant support groups, meanwhile, were quick to issue statements of rebuke.

The Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, the Most Rev. Jose H. Gomez, said Thursday that the “nation’s ongoing failure to address the immigration crisis is a humanitarian tragedy.”

Gomez, who has been active in the immigration debate, called on Obama and Congress to “agree to halt deportations pending the outcome of the national elections this fall. This would be a humanitarian gesture that would provide temporary relief and peace of mind to millions of our brothers and sisters, including millions of children.”

Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, a national organization that advocates for reduced immigration, said the high court decision came as a welcome death knell to the president’s harmful policies.

“U.S. citizens and legal immigrants in this country have been spared having to face direct job and wage competition from millions of illegal migrants for whom President Obama had promised to open up every job in America,” Beck said.

Obama launched his plan in November 2014, saying the ultimate solution rested with Congress to devise a comprehensive immigration reform package.

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday reiterated that its priority remains deporting convicted criminals. But that has provided little relief to those counting on a different outcome in the Supreme Court.

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