Things That Matter

SCOTUS Immigration Case Will Impact Millions — Possibly Even You

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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… San Francisco …

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…AND Miami. Combined.

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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?

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United States v. Texas started in Brownsville, Texas, a 5-hour drive south of Austin, under the authority of Judge Andrew Hanen.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Which would mean that scenes like these from La Santa Cecilia’s “Ice El Hielo”…

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…would continue, separating families and deporting innocent people who came to this country for freedom.

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The Supreme Court to hear the arguments and deliver their decision as early as June 2016. All we can do is wait.

Watch La Santa Cecilia’s “Ice El Hielo” full music video below:

Credit: LaSantaCeciliaVEVO / YouTube

READ: Sotomayor: Greatest Obstacle Is Fear, Not Discrimination

Share this story with all your friends by tapping that share button below and let’s bring more attention to this court case affecting millions.

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

Things That Matter

With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

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Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.

But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.

Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.

Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.

Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.

In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.

In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.

“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”

However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.

Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form. 

The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.

Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.

Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.

According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.

Participants will be able to learn about the voting process and what will be on the next ballot during the “Vontando Por Mi Familia: Enterate para que vas a votar” event. The event, hosted in partnership with Mi Familia, will be presented in Spanish.

A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.

Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.

The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.

Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost. 

“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.

Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.

“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”

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This 11-Year-Old Read A Heartbreaking Letter To Trump About Her Mom Being Deported And It’s A Must Watch

Things That Matter

This 11-Year-Old Read A Heartbreaking Letter To Trump About Her Mom Being Deported And It’s A Must Watch

Democratic National Convention / Getty Images

If you aren’t a political junkie who has tuned in to watch every last minute of the Democratic National Convention this week, there’s a lot that was totally fine for you to have missed. It’s had its share of tacky, dull moments and plenty of self-congratulating.

But, last night, there was a moment that everyone should take two minutes to watch. The moment featured an 11-year-old girl with a story so similar and familiar to so many Latinos across the country. The girl, whose mother was deported to Mexico in 2018, helps us all put a face and a very articulate voice to a daily tragedy that we should never stop thinking about: the separation of children from their parents due to harsh U.S. immigration policies.

Estela Juárez stole the spotlight with a powerful letter to Donald Trump about her mother’s deportation.

Eleven-year old Estela Juarez was undoubtedly the star at last night’s Democratic National Convention. As the daughter of an undocumented immigrant who was deported in 2018, she read an emotional letter directly to Donald Trump decrying his hurtful and inhumane immigration policies.

“My mom is my best friend,” Juarez said in a letter she read aloud, addressed to Donald Trump. “She came to America as a teenager over 20 years ago, without papers, in search of a better life. She married my dad, who served our country as a marine in South America, Africa, and Iraq. My mom worked hard and paid taxes, and the Obama administration told her she could stay.”

“Mr. President, my mom is the wife of a proud American Marine, and the mother of two American children,” Estela Juarez said. “We are American families. We need a president who will bring people together, not tear them apart.”

In her statement, she added that her father, a naturalized American citizen who immigrated from Mexico, had voted for Trump in 2016 with the expectation that Trump would protect military families, but would not vote for him in 2020. The video featured footage of Trump stating that he did not want immigrants in the U.S. and that they are “not people.” It also included news coverage of the families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“My dad thought you would protect military families, so he voted for you in 2016, Mr. President,” she said, addressing Trump. “He says he won’t vote for you again after what you did to our family. Instead of protecting us, you tore our world apart.”

The Juárez family gained national attention when her mother was deported because of her father’s service to the country.

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In 2018, the Florida family gained national attention after Immigration and Customs Enforcement confiscated Alejandra’s passport and pressured her to self-deport to Mexico. Estela described how her mother was able to live in the country during the Obama administration.

The family’s case was widely publicized because of her husband Temo Juarez’s military status. She also was one of the subjects of the Selena Gomez-produced Netflix documentary series Living Undocumented.

Another family who Trump has terrorized with his immigration policies also spoke last night.

Another family who has been hurt by Trump’s immigration policies also took the state last night. Silvia Sanchez and her daughters, Jessica and Lucy, spoke about their journey to the U.S. and how Trump’s policies have made them fearful for their futures.

Silvia shared her story of crossing the border without documents after doctors in her hometown said that they would not be able to care for Jessica, who has spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine.

“I took my baby in my arms and traveled for days to the border,” said Silvia, in Spanish. “When we got to the river, I raised her above the water and we crossed.”

While Lucy is a citizen and Jessica is a Dreamer, Silvia is still undocumented. The three explained how Trump’s policies have brought back fears the family will be separated and that Jessica will be unable to get health care because she does not have the right ID to get insurance through an exchange. “We work hard. We make ends meet. We pay taxes,” said Silvia.

These emotional, human-centered issue montages dominated the opening 30 minutes of the Democratic National Convention’s third night. A segment on gun control concluded with an address from former Rep. Gabby Giffords, while a climate change segment included scientists who resigned from the administration. But the issue where it was apparent Democrats have come the furthest in four years was immigration—the policy area that might be least hospitable to abstractions after four years of Donald Trump.

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