The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday in a major case challenging the Obama administration's executive actions on immigration. Ahead of oral arguments, Democratic congressmen and advocates are detailing what the case's potential outcomes could mean for the immigrant community.
With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments Monday on President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, federal lawmakers and immigrant advocates are discussing what's at stake in the high-profile case.
"These immigration executive actions are a game changer for our communities," U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA,38), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said at a Friday news conference with other House Democrats. "The Supreme Court could determine the fate of five million undocumented immigrants, many of whom have family members who are United States citizens."
Signed in November 2014, Obama's immigration orders seek to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative and create a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. The current DACA program grants a two-year protection against deportation to immigrants who came to the United States as young children prior to June of 2007.
The immigration orders, if upheld, will impact "the people who can show that they have lived here a long time, have no serious criminal records, have families, jobs and mortgages here in the United States, and should be the lowest priority for deportation," U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) said at today's news conference.
Obama's immigration orders are being challenged in the United States vs. Texas case before the Supreme Court. Texas is leading a group of about two dozen mostly Republican-run states in challenging the immigration orders, which have been on hold as the issue works its way through the courts.
The Obama administration appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas federal judge's injunction last November blocking the immigration orders from taking effect.
Obama's immigration programs cannot move forward if the Supreme Court rules against the administration or issues a 4-4 tied decision. A deadlocked decision would keep in place the lower court ruling, preventing the immigration orders from being implemented.
Under either potential outcome, "immigrants would remain vulnerable to enforcement activity," including deportation, Fred Tsao with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) told Progress Illinois.
"Many immigrants will remain in the limbo that they've already been living in for many years -- not being able to fully reunite their families or move forward in their employment or their education or their careers," he said.
A ruling against the administration could also have implications for future presidents when it comes to their use of executive authority and "the choices they make so far as prioritizing enforcement of laws or protection of certain individuals under the law," Tsao explained.
That being said, Tsao said immigrant advocates are "still very confident that the administration will prevail" in the case and that the high court will issue a ruling allowing "the programs to move forward on one ground or another."
Gutierrez also expressed optimism, saying he's "confident that justice and the rule of law will carry the day."
Under the pending DAPA program, qualified undocumented parents of children with U.S. legal status who have resided in the country since January 1, 2010 would be shielded from deportation for three years. To obtain deferred action and work permits, eligible undocumented immigrants would have to pass a criminal background test and pay an application fee.
The ability for qualified undocumented immigrants to receive work permits "will enable many of them to change jobs, get better jobs, seek higher pay, and move forward with their lives and their careers," Tsao said. "It could have a really significant impact on the lives of immigrants who are eligible for these programs."
According to a report by the Center for American Progress (CAP), there are 5.2 million immigrants in the United States eligible for DACA, DAPA and DACA expansion. CAP calculates that these three immigration initiatives would together grow the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by an estimated $230 billion over a decade.
Even if the immigration orders are upheld, nearly half of the U.S. undocumented population of 11 million people will not qualify for the programs.
"The executive actions are limited, and we will still need to work for a broader and more permanent solution for everybody," Tsao said.
As the country awaits a decision in the United States vs. Texas case, ICIRR says the immigrant community should continue to get ready for administrative relief. The group is also urging naturalization-eligible immigrants to move forward with becoming a U.S. citizen and register to vote so they can make their voices heard in the upcoming presidential election.
"The outcome of the November election is going to also have a very significant impact, not just on the fate of DACA and DAPA, but also the prospects for broader and more permanent solutions for the undocumented community," Tsao said.
On Monday, immigrant advocates plan to rally at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the president's executive actions. A local demonstration is also being planned in Chicago, where ICIRR and other immigrant groups will protest outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) downtown office.
At the Chicago event, organizations will join community members facing deportation and detention "to demand an end to raids and deportations, highlight the importance of executive actions and continue to fight for community members who were left out," according to an announcement.
Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) is among the groups spearheading the rally.
OCAD helped win a temporary victory this week for an undocumented immigrant living in Aurora, who was granted a one-year delay in his deportation. OCAD says Noe Adan, 26, "had erroneously been labeled a 'priority' for deportation" by ICE and was previously told he would have to self deport to Mexico on April 12. After OCAD and others spoke out over Adan's case, ICE agreed Tuesday to delay the man's deportation for one year.
Though the community was pleased with ICE's decision, they are "angered by the stress and uncertainty that the Chicago ICE office put Noe Adan and his family through," said OCAD's Yaxal Sobrevilla.
She said Adan, who has a four-year-old daughter who is a U.S. citizen, is one of many undocumented immigrants facing deportation who would likely qualify for deferred action if DAPA was in effect.
"We do have a lot of families here who are in these pressuring situations," she told Progress Illinois. "They are still in deportation proceedings, even though there's no resolution yet for DAPA."