When President Barack Obama announced an immigration policy change last year, Maria Carachure's parents, who are undocumented immigrants, were feeling hopeful. Her parents had come to the country two decades ago, and to provide for the family, her father traveled across the country picking fruits while her mother sewed clothes in a factory. Those were the only jobs her parents could find. And in 20 years, that struggle for work has not changed much. Now, because her father can only find temp jobs as a plumber when work is available, her mother is the only one with a steady job, cleaning offices in a downtown building.
“We're always fearing what might happen—what if she loses her job?” 19-year-old Maria Carachure said. “What if they call immigration? We never know what's going to happen to my mom.”
The policy that could have quelled those fears was the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would have provided nearly five million immigrants like Carachure's parents a renewable work permit, a driver's license, and reprieve from the threat of deportation. But shortly after Obama announced it, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, claiming Obama acted outside of his authority and unilaterally rewrote a law. Twenty-five states backed Texas in the suit. In February, Brownsville U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen agreed with Abbott—and then roughly five million immigrants faced the daily fear of deportation again.
After the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals twice declined to grant the Obama administration's emergency request to lift the injunction, on Friday, Obama filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the lower court's ruling. In the filing, the administration asks the court to grant the case "immediate review," given the instant protections the policy would provide for thousands of immigrant families. The main question the appeal raises is whether the states had proper standing to sue the president in the first place and challenge his choices in pursuit of their own immigration policies. In the past, Obama has argued that, if we're going to deport people, it should only be those who are a threat to others, such as felons—not hardworking people, like Carachure's parents. By blocking the reform, U.S. Solicitor General said in the appeal that the courts will force millions of people—who are not removal priorities under criteria the court conceded are valid, and who are parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents—to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families.
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Within hours of the administration filing the appeal, Texas immigration reform advocacy groups and a few dozen immigrant families gathered outside of City Hall to urge voters to back politicians who would support DAPA.
“We have faith that the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in favor of American principles—of inclusion,” said Elsa Caballero, president of SEIU Texas.
One woman, Virginia, who declined to give her last name for fear of deportation, said she was at first afraid to even attend the City Hall rally, eyeing Houston police officers who walked past her. Should DAPA be implemented, the first thing she would do after getting a license is start volunteering at elementary schools again. Her children are grown now, and she spent much of her time as a volunteer with younger kids before a policy change requiring her to show a valid ID for a criminal background check took that opportunity away.
In her closing remarks, Caballero reminded the Latino community—who held signs saying "Strong Alone, Unbeatable Together” and “28.5 Million Latino Voters Eligible in 2016”—of the importance of making sure that candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, staunchly opposed to immigration policies such as this one, stay out of office. “We're tired,” Caballero said. “We're tired of the politicking that's being done, that's preventing our community from moving forward. It's preventing us from coming out of the shadows.”