Immigration

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    There are currently about 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States who are in desperate need of an overhaul in the U.S. response to immigration. Of this 11 million, 1.2 million are eligible for President Obama’s 2012 program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA grants temporary permission to stay in the U.S. and authorizes work and study for qualifying youth who were born after June 15, 1981, came to the U.S. as children and have been in the country since June 15, 2007. As of March 2016, over 800,000 applications for initial DACA and over 500,000 applications for a DACA renewal had been approved since the program’s inception.

    In 2013, Senator Charles Schumer introduced a bipartisan immigration reform bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), in the U.S. Senate. The Senate passed the bill later that summer but the shifting political climate rendered the House unable to do the same. The bill, had it been enacted, would have provided a pathway to citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants. This inability to pass any substantive reform in Congress left President Obama with no option other than executive action: on November 20, 2014, he announced an expansion of DACA and a new program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

    The expansion to DACA would have made unauthorized children brought to the U.S. before January of 2010 eligible for deferred action. DAPA would have granted deferred action to unauthorized parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and who were born on or after November 20, 2014. Together with 2012 DACA, these programs would have improved the lives of millions of immigrant families by allowing them to come out of the shadows, work legally, and stop living in fear. These programs would have helped far more people than the 2012 DACA program can alone: 3.6 million would have been eligible for DAPA and almost 300,000 would have been eligible for the expansion to DACA. More than 10 million people, about 85% of whom are U.S. citizens, live in households with at least one adult who is potentially eligible for DAPA; 69% of these potentially eligible adults have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years and 25% have lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years. Most of these individuals are not enforcement priorities under DHS guidelines, but they and their children still have to live in constant fear of deportation—a fear that poses significant psychological harm to many families and children.

    In June of 2016, however, the Supreme Court reached a 4-4 ‘non-decision decision’ in the case United States v. Texas, which challenged President Obama’s 2014 executive actions announcing his DAPA and expanded DACA programs. This non-decision leaves in place an injunction imposed on the programs by a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. Advocates were extremely disappointed that these executive actions will not be implemented, at least for the foreseeable future. The National Immigration Law Center and other organizations are advocating that the Department of Justice request a rehearing in the case.

    It is important to note that this ruling does not affect those eligible for the 2012 DACA, but only those who would have been eligible for DAPA or the DACA expansion.

    For more information on this issue, visit CHN’s Public Policy Priorities, 2015-2016.

    Advocacy Organizations

    ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Page
    American Friends Service Committee Immigrants’ Rights Page
    Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
    Migration Policy Institute
    National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium
    National Council of La Raza
    National Immigration Law Center