Immigration is a hot-button topic as presidential elections overwhelmingly control public discourse, advertisements, and entertainment programs across all media outlets. The recent 4-4 Supreme Court ruling on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) put a brake on the expansion of DACA/DAPA. In 2014, President Obama announced that he would seek to expand the DACA/DAPA benefit programs that offer legal status to certain unauthorized immigrants. Now, the Supreme Court has stalled his movement on the matter.
DACA refers to unauthorized immigrants born after 1981 that were brought to the United States before their 16th birthday and have been in the country since June 15, 2007. An expansion to this benefit is for unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children before January 2010. DAPA refers to the unauthorized parents of children who are US citizens or legal permanent residents born on or before November 20, 2014 – the parent must have been in the United States since January 1, 2010.
While estimates claim there are as many as 12 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, DACA/DAPA would help less than half of these immigrants. The way in which DACA helps approximately 1.5 million unauthorized immigrants is by allowing eligible young people to obtain work permits and defer deportation if they meet certain guidelines, such as not having a criminal record. DAPA gives approximately 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants the opportunity to obtain three-year work permits.
The majority of unauthorized immigrants live in three states. Two of those states, California and New York, did not sue; however, Texas led the lawsuit of 26 states brought against the expansion of DACA/DAPA to the Supreme Court. Unauthorized immigrants make up a quarter of the United States’ foreign-born population, but unauthorized immigration has significantly declined as economic opportunities in the United States have slowed and deportations are at an all-time high.
The Texas-led lawsuit claims that Obama is ignoring federal immigration guidelines and seeks to block DAPA and the expansion of DACA, while not affecting recipients of the already established DACA program.
As the ruling has been making waves through the immigrant and immigrant advocacy communities, the more than 16.2 million individuals living in mixed-status families are feeling the repercussions of the recent ruling; many fear their status in the United States.
Higher education is also proving to be an issue, as the blocking of DACA’s expansion is canceling out higher education as an option for most unauthorized immigrants who now do not have access to this program for the foreseeable future. Enrollment in higher education programs was said to increase after the expansion of DACA and DAPA, but is now expected to remain constant or even decrease as once enrolled undocumented students are feeling the increased probability of deportation.
Most mixed-status families live in poverty. DACA recipients are commonly the first in their family to graduate high school and even more so to enroll in higher education. The blocking of DACA/DAPA has made reaching for higher education significantly more difficult and lessened the hope of unauthorized immigrants who dreamed of being the first in their family to graduate. Blocking these individuals from continuing their education means that they’re forced into low-wage labor and the cycle of poverty continues. With poverty come additional issues such as health care, food scarcity, and familial tension.
The health care industry nationwide is continuing to see uninsured and or underinsured unauthorized immigrants who now feel as if there is no hope for them to finally access the high quality health care the United States offers. Living in poverty as an unauthorized immigrant has offered them little to no healthcare in the United States and now will continue to do so. As their health is ailing, these individuals are seldom able to live the quality of life they could live should they have access to often-simple treatments and medications. With illness comes a decline in mental health, tension in the household, and often an inability to provide for the family as a member of the workforce, allowing the cycle of poverty to continue.
The latest ruling is not stopping immigrant advocacy groups from moving forward. Democratic organizations are attempting to mobilize voters for the upcoming election, uniting both immigrant advocates and Latino voters. Latino voters have been significantly more powerful in recent elections, especially in the reelection of President Obama in 2012. Their potential voting power is even more powerful this election as the Latino population has grown and important issues like DACA/DAPA are being addressed.
Meanwhile, in an effort to expand benefits to the 4 million unauthorized immigrants that have just been blocked by the 4-4 Supreme Court ruling, advocacy groups such as Reform Immigration FOR America are pushing for the case to be brought back in front of the Supreme Court when a ninth judge is approved by Congress.
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico