Yesterday, Gabriela Contreras invited a dozen undocumented mothers into her home to rally support for DAPA, President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, an executive-action program now being challenged in the Supreme Court.
The home is the same one Contreras is afraid to leave every day, for fear that she will get a traffic ticket and end up deported, or that she will be apprehended while taking her kids to play at the park. In Spanish, she says she sometimes worries that she will leave to pick her children up from school, but will never be able to come home. So mostly she stays here in her home, baking cakes as part of her own catering business.
DAPA is what could change that for Contreras and all of the mothers she invited over, allowing them to get regular, good-paying jobs and to obtain drivers licenses, and allowing them temporary relief from the constant threat of deportation. President Obama signed DAPA in November 2014, granting nearly five million undocumented immigrants those IDs and renewable work permits. The reprieve, however, was short-lived: Not long after, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, saying Obama's executive action was unconstitutional and that he was overreaching; 25 states backed him up.
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments, and the court appeared split on the issue, with conservative justices questioning how undocumented immigrants could be considered “legally present” under Obama's program and liberal justices asserting that the country simply doesn't have the resources to deport them en masse. The justices are expected to make a decision in June, which is why, this month, Gabriela Contreras invited fellow mothers over to her home. They hung sings that said, “This is my home and I will protect it,” and “Estados Unidos...Familias Unidas,” hoping the Supreme Court would hear their pleas to keep their families intact.
Among the mothers present were Roble Karina Colunga and Patricia Lopez. Colunga has lived here for 24 years and has seven children, five of whom are under 18. Last Christmas, she reached out to a children's charity that provides Christmas presents for parents to give to their kids. They wouldn't help her because she didn't have an ID.
Lopez is a single mother with three children all born in the U.S., two of whom have a rare disability in which their muscles are developing slower than their bodies are. One of them also has two brain tumors, which prevents him from taking the growth hormones. If Lopez were to ever get deported, she would have to leave her children behind, because her children need to keep their specialized doctors here. Lopez said that, without DAPA, this is her biggest fear.
“It's really important for the children to be raised with their parents,” she said. “I know they can be put up with foster parents, but it's not the same thing. They just take care of them, but they don't love them.
The love, it makes a big difference.”
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.