Immigrant advocates decry Supreme Court’s vote

by Aileen Flores, El Paso Times—

Immigrant advocates in El Paso on Thursday expressed disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s tied vote on President Barack Obama’s immigration policies and urged Congress to work on comprehensive immigration reform.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 4-4 vote blocked Obama’s 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents plan and expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy intended to provide temporary deportation relief and work permits for about 4.3 million undocumented immigrants.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court in United States v. Texas eliminates those protections, shatters hopes for over 4 million migrants now at risk of deportation, and injects unnecessary fear and anxiety of separation of families across the United States,” Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces and Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso said in a joint written statement.

“When Pope Francis visited our country and addressed Congress, he reminded lawmakers that ‘when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and errors of the past.’ Today’s sad ruling reinforces our commitment to work for truly comprehensive, permanent immigration reform. We call on Congress to do the same,” they added.

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said he was deeply disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court split vote and said the decision will have negative economic consequences because immigrants contribute to the Texas economy.

“In this state, undocumented youth paid $51.6 million in university/college tuition and fees in 2013, as well as an estimated $1.6 billion in state and local taxes. In 2011, immigrants of all status in Texas contributed $65 billion in economic output — wages, salary, and business earnings,” Rodríguez said. “With that, it is and has been imperative for Congress to do its job by passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” he added.

In February 2015, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, of Brownsville, granted a preliminary injunction against the president’s executive orders, stating that they were unconstitutional and bypassed the U.S. Congress to implement new laws.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed Hanen’s ruling in November.

The Supreme Court’s tied vote leaves intact the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling, which makes millions of American children and parents vulnerable to deportation, said The Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso.

“In the wake of today’s ruling, the moral and practical need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that includes a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented Americans becomes ever clearer,” the organization said in a statement.

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center said Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals had the potential to benefit millions of undocumented immigrants with no criminal records who have been living in the United States since at least 2010.

“This tie in the courts is a direct result of the unwillingness of Congress to take initiative in the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice following Justice Scalia’s death. We are extremely disappointed that Congress is not doing its job, and is instead blocking a replacement from assuming the vacant justice position. Today we have witnessed the direct effects of this inaction,” the organizations said in a statement.

Las American Immigrant Advocacy Center reminded the public that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals originally announced in 2012 remains intact. Undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States on or before June 2007, prior to turning 16 years old, who are currently enrolled in high school or a GED program or have graduated from a program and were 31 or younger in 2012 may still qualify for the plan.

Aileen B. Flores may be reached at 546-6362; aflores@elpasotimes.com; @AileenBFlores on Twitter.

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