The battle to unfreeze President Obama’s DAPA and expanded DACA executive actions is now in the U.S. Supreme Court
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the lawsuit that froze the implementation of an expansion to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the creation of the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program. For immigration advocates, this is a major decision in the fight for families.
President Obama announced the programs in November 2014, but Texas along with 25 other states’ attorneys general challenged the executive actions in court. Combined these programs promise to protect nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation and provide employment authorization. Specifically, DAPA and DACA both provide eligible recipients with:
- Relief from deportation and the ability to stay in the United States
- Employment authorization in the United States (work permit)
With a work permit, recipients can apply for a Social Security number at a local office Social Security Administration office. It will be up to each state to decide if DAPA beneficiaries are eligible for state benefits and privileges such as driver’s licenses, in-state tuition, and professional licenses.
The lawsuit, known as Texas v United States, denies people the opportunity to come out of the shadows and work legally. That’s why immigration advocates throughout the United States gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. to show their support for President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Advocates want the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s decision to stop the deferred action programs. Unfreezing these programs will allow nearly five million immigrants the opportunity to flourish and contribute even more to American livelihood.
“Today, we urge the Supreme Court to put partisan politics aside and follow previous court precedent by reaffirming the President’s executive authority to determine the Federal government’s immigration enforcement priorities,” said LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes.
Businesses that support the Obama Administration’s effort have also filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief, signed by 63 employers and business interests, was spearheaded by FWD.us.
The Court is evenly divided with four liberal justices and four conservatives following the February death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. That increases the possibility of a 4-4 tie that would result in no change. In other words, the lower court’s decision to block DAPA and expanded DACA would stand.
When a Final Decision Will Be Made
If the justices are evenly divided, it’s possible that we could hear from the Court in May 2016. This would be an unfavorable result for advocates of the President’s policy. A split decision means that the lower court’s decision would be remain in effect. DAPA and expanded DACA could not be implemented.
If the Court wants to make a definitive decision, the announcement would likely come in late June 2016. This would mean that one of the Justices would have to be won over by the opposing side. A decision to uphold the lower court’s injunction would mean the end to the new deferred action programs. But immigration advocates have many reasons to be optimistic of a favorable decision. A decision that favors the Obama Administration means that DAPA and expanded DACA could be quickly implemented.
When DAPA and Expanded DACA Will Begin
Even if the Court’s decision is unfavorable to immigrants, it’s important to understand that the original DACA program will be unchanged. Recipients of the original DACA program will continue to receive protection from deportation and employment authorization. They should continue to renew DACA up to 150 days before it expires.
If the Court’s decision unfreezes the injunction on DAPA and expanded DACA, the Obama Administration could start the two deferred action programs fairly quickly. Most of the necessary work has been done by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In fact, USCIS started implementing some components of the expanded DACA program prior to the court injunction that stopped everything. Many are optimistic that eligible immigrants could begin applying for the programs by late summer 2016.
Why the Supreme Court is Involved
The case comes at a time when immigration is a divisive issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, with at least one top Republican contender advocating for the deportation all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
Congress failed to act in 2013, and President Obama took action. The House of Representatives failed to pass bipartisan legislation, billed as the biggest overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in decades that also provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The bill was passed by the Senate and died with the House.
Subsequently the Obama Administration announced executive actions for immigration in November 2014. Obama’s plan allows roughly 4 million people – those who have lived without documentation in the United States at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents – get into a deferred action program that temporarily protects them from deportation and provides work permits. The plan is called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
Texas and a coalition of 25 other states sued to stop deferred action. A federal judge sided with the states in February 2015 and blocked the actions from taking effect. The preliminary injunction, later upheld by a federal appeals court, froze the programs nationwide.
Get Involved in the Fight
Designed by attorneys, CitizenPath is the online service that makes immigration forms simple. The website provides simple, step-by-step guidance through USCIS applications and petitions. The low-cost service helps to simplify the process by explaining each question and providing alerts if your answer to a question could be a problem. CitizenPath even guarantees that USCIS will accept your application. There’s online self-help for the Application for a Work Permit (Form I-765), DACA Renewal (Form I-821D), and several other USCIS forms.