On April 18th, the Supreme Court will hear arguments for the case against Deferred Action for Parents of Americans to Legal Permanent Resident (DAPA), with implications for the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Dragging through the courts since February 2015, what started in the bordertown of Brownsville, Texas, is now in the hands of SCOTUS. The case affects roughly 5.2 million undocumented people — more than the city populations of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami combined. Numerous concerns, both constitutional and moral, hang in the balance. It impacts people you know, family members, possibly even you. Here is everything you need to know about this historic court case.
The SCOTUS decision will directly affect MILLIONS of undocumented people.
In 2014, President Obama signed executive orders putting a handful of immigration reform policies in place, the DAPA program and an expansion of 2012’s DACA among them. (The case itself would only impact the expansion, not DACA itself.) The case addresses constitutionality of executive authority with regard to immigration reform. At stake is the lawful presence of MILLIONS of undocumented people.
DAPA? DACA? You’ve heard the terms, but what do they even mean?
Let’s break it down and see what these two executive orders are all about, shall we?
To understand DAPA, you need to know DACA. DACA appeared in 2012, offering certain people who were brought to the U.S. as children educational opportunities, work permits and, importantly, relief from deportation.
DACA provides relief for children who had no control over the decision to immigrate. Some don’t even know a life outside of the U.S.
To qualify for DACA, you: Were under 31 as of June 15, 2012 (when DACA was created); entered the U.S. before turning 16; have continuous residence since June 15, 2007; were physically present in the U.S. on the date DACA was created and the date of your DACA request; entered without inspection or your visa expired before June 15, 2012; are currently in school, have graduated with a high school diploma or have a GED certificate, or were honorably discharged from the military; and have no felony convictions, a significant misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors on your record, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The criteria were pretty stringent, but the program immediately offered 1.2 million young, undocumented immigrants some kind of safety for the first time.
And since DACA was implemented four years ago, hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented people living in the U.S. have renewed and maintained their DACA status. The current DACA law states that people benefiting from the program can renew their DACA status every two years. It is not guaranteed that their DACA request will be granted every time.
So, DACA’s been in effect for 4 years with some positive results… what’s the deal?
Well, on Nov. 20, 2014, when President Obama signed those executive orders on immigration, they did two things: (1) Expand the current DACA program to offer protection and benefits to more people and (2) created DAPA, which would open up some of those similar DACA protections and benefits to undocumented parents of children who are U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents.
Under DACA expansion, the age cap is lifted, the continuous residence rule relaxed, and 290,000 ~more~ people who have lived most of their lives in the U.S. can register.
This means that anyone who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday can be a DACA recipient. The expansion also states that you have to have continuous residence in the US as of Jan. 1, 2010 instead of June 15, 2007. This would open up the program to 290,000 more undocumented immigrants seeking protection and stability, bringing the total number of people eligible for DACA protection to 1.5 million.
DACA recipients would also get more time between renewals, up from two years to three, giving them fewer encounters with immigration services.
Sounds like a good idea, right?
This will all help DAPA make sense. If DACA is about saving childhood arrivals, DAPA is all about saving parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Kids and parents, ya know?
When President Obama proposed DACA expansion back in 2014, he also brought the idea of protecting the parents of U.S.-born children. Yes, he tackled both of these immigration issues on the same day. 😎
The criteria for applying for DAPA are similar to DACA’s, with some slight differences.
Like DACA, DAPA recipients must have continuous residence in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010; they had to have been physically present in the U.S. on Nov. 20, 2014, and when they request DAPA; they must have no lawful status on Nov. 20, 2014 (either unchecked entry or expired visa); as of Nov. 20, 2014, those requesting DAPA must have a child who is a U.S. citizen of any age or marital status, or their child has to be a permanent legal resident; and, again, no felonies, significant misdemeanor, multiple minor misdemeanors, nor can they pose any threat or be prioritized for deportation.
DAPA has the potential to directly and immediately impact the lives of 3.7 million people living in the U.S.
That’s right. 3.7 MILLION people would benefit from DAPA alone.
Now, for some easy math. Between DACA, expanded DACA and DAPA, 5.2 MILLION people would be spared deportation and raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Like, that is a lot of people.
The number of people saved by these executive orders is a larger number than the populations of Los Angeles …
… San Francisco …
…AND Miami. Combined.
Now, imagine losing the entire populations of those three cities and think about the repercussions, both human and economic. The number of people that would benefit from the orders is still less than half of the 11.4 million undocumented people living in the U.S.
So, what is this court case all about and how did it start?
United States v. Texas started in Brownsville, Texas, a 5-hour drive south of Austin, under the authority of Judge Andrew Hanen.
On February 16, 2015, just two days before DAPA and expanded DACA were supposed to take affect, Judge Hanen handed down a 123-page memorandum putting a halt to the implementation of the executive orders President Obama had signed three months before. Judge Hanen argued that the passing of expanded DACA and DAPA would place an undue burden on the states in terms of public schooling and subsidized medical costs, while ignoring the potential benefits like job creation, increased wages and increased tax revenue generated by those who would be “legalized” by the order.
Texas, along with 25 other states, filed the lawsuit claiming that President Obama had overreached his authority by signing the executive orders into law. Basically, they are challenging the case on a technicality, not the orders themselves.
The states suing against DACA expansion and DAPA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
After the Hanen decision, the case was appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The government asked for a stay on the injunction to allow expanded DACA and DAPA, but it was denied.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld the ruling made by the lower court in Texas. This further delayed DAPA and expanded DACA, further delaying the benefit to millions.
Once again, the federal government appealed. This time the case is going up to the Supreme Court, which will have the final say on the fate of expanded DACA and DAPA.
Granted, the Supreme Court has been on a more liberal streak in recent years, but with the death of Antonin Scalia, things on the court have been very different.
But, here’s the thing: With just eight justices currently sitting, the last few Supreme Court have all come back with a 4-4 split vote. That matters. A lot.
A 4-4 tied vote at the Supreme Court means that the decision of the lower court is upheld. That spells death for DAPA and the DACA expansion.
Which would mean that scenes like these from La Santa Cecilia’s “Ice El Hielo”…
…would continue, separating families and deporting innocent people who came to this country for freedom.
The Supreme Court to hear the arguments and deliver their decision as early as June 2016. All we can do is wait.