Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Supreme Court to Review Case Opposing Obama’s Immigration Plan

Monday, January 25, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 19 agreed to review President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order which would allow the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

The justices will hear the case in April and are expected to issue a ruling in June. Opponents of Obama’s initiative have argued that the president has overstepped his role by issuing the order, known as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans.

More than five million undocumented U.S. residents would be affected by the plan, which allows for work permits, drivers’ licenses and relief from deportation. Obama’s executive order also expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has been in effect since 2011.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in the legal arguments that we’ll be making before the court,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Jan. 19 at the daily briefing.

“The kinds of executive actions that the president took a little over a year ago now to try to bring some much-needed reforms and greater accountability to our broken immigration system were clearly consistent with the precedent that was established by other presidents, and clearly within the confines of his authority as president of the United States. That’s the nature of the argument that will be presented to the court,” he said.

“These executive actions will have on the security of communities all across the country, a positive impact on our economy, and obviously a positive impact on thousands of families inside the United States,” said Earnest.

An estimated 11 million undocumented people currently reside in the U.S. India is the fourth largest source of unauthorized immigrants in America, behind Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The Pew Research Center estimates there are 450,000 undocumented Indians living in the U.S.

The initiative was immediately challenged by 26 states after the president announced the plan in November 2014. A lawsuit brought about by the states – Texas v. USA – has kept the order from being implemented.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last November to block implementation of DAPA, upholding a lower court’s decision in February. Texas contends it would have to incur “millions” in cost for providing drivers’ licenses and unemployment benefits to at least half a million undocumented people who reside in the state.

The South Asian Bar Association applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to hear Texas v. USA, “thereby preserving the hopes of nearly four million undocumented individuals in the United States for quasi-legal status, temporary work authorization, and at least temporary relief from deportation.”

The organization noted it had filed an amicus – friend of the court – brief as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case, stating that DAPA and expansion of DACA are well within the realm of the president’s executive authority.

“While the court is sure to examine the scope of the president’s authority to enact these programs, we urge the court to consider the very real interests of the families and individuals who would benefit from this program,” said SABA president Anne Gwal in a statement.

“Separation by deportation is cruel and unnecessary, and the inability to legally work in the United States relegates millions of people to the shadow economy,” she said.

If the Supreme Court reverses the lower court’s decision and upholds the executive order, the Department of Homeland Security would have about seven months to implement these programs before a new president assumes office, noted SABA.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice noted that the new DAPA initiative and expanded DACA would benefit at least 400,000 Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants nationwide.

"We applaud the Supreme Court for agreeing to hear this case. We hope they correct the lower court's ruling, and recognize correctly the legal authority of the president to exercise discretion in immigration enforcement," stated Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles.

“The shenanigans of Texas et al have cruelly kept millions of community members in limbo across the nation,” said Gabriela Villareal, interim executive director of the California Immigration Policy Center.

Villareal praised the Supreme Court for taking on the case, but criticized the Obama administration for what she termed “shameful deportation tactics.”

“History will not remember kindly the raiding of 4-year-old children in the middle of the night, the force-feeding of hunger strikers protesting awful conditions in immigration detention, and the continuing attempts to entangle local police with a deportation system devoid of due process. Simply put, President Obama's immigration legacy is in shambles, and he must do much more, right now, to fix these injustices,” she stated.

Immigration has been at the forefront of both parties’ platforms during the 2016 presidential cycle. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has said he has a plan to deport all 11 million undocumented U.S. residents. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio – who in 2014 had co-authored a bill that would overhaul a backlogged immigration system and offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents – has changed his stance, portraying immigration as a national security issue.

"This issue's different now; we have radical jihadist groups that are using our immigration system against us,” Rubio recently told supporters on the campaign trail. His contender, Ted Cruz, has characterized Rubio as being “too soft” on immigration policy.

The Service Employees International Union – one of the nation’s largest labor unions, representing about two million workers — issued a statement decrying Trump, Rubio and Cruz’s positions on immigration.

“We will continue to defend DACA and DAPA, in the streets and at the ballot box,” said SEIU. “Our message to extremists like Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are competing for our vote while at the same time promising to repeal DAPA and DACA, is: we will not forget in November. We will remember who stood in the way of families and who stood against our families.”

"Whatever the court does, we will not stop organizing voters and engaging in this debate until we elect a president who shares the values our country was built on,” stated the labor union.

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