Tuesday would have marked the date that 3.7 million undocumented immigrant parents of some Americans could apply for deportation relief under President Obama’s November 2014 executive action on immigration. If not for a lawsuit.
A temporary injunction that capped off a multi-state lawsuit led by Texas put the president’s executive action on hold. Twenty-six states sued the Obama administration stating that the executive action had “violated the president’s constitutional duty to take care that the laws were faithfully executed,” stating that the action went beyond just setting enforcement and deportation priorities.
Now these immigrants have been left in limbo. Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program would have granted immigrants both deportation relief and temporary work authorization to certain qualified undocumented immigrants who have been in the country since 2010. The DAPA program affects parents of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and is part of an extension of Obama’s 2012 action known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Obama’s announcement would have also expanded on the original DACA program by getting rid of the age cap and allowing older undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
Some Republicans have called Obama’s executive order a constitutional disaster. One presidential candidate said that the action was like “counterfeiting immigration papers” while another compared the immigration action with internment camps for the Japanese.
But for the immigrants and their families who would have been its beneficiaries, Tuesday will mark a “Day of Action” across the country to “remind politicians and 2016 presidential hopefuls what’s at stake for millions of American families on this issue,” the pro-reform advocacy group Alliance For Citizenship indicated in a press release.
‘My kids worry that I’ll get another ticket.’
Elda V. and her husband could be deported any day now from Texas, leaving behind three underage children in the United States. Two of their children are U.S.-born citizens, a criteria that allows both parents to become eligible for the DAPA program. The oldest child is undocumented, but DACA-eligible. Both parents came across the southern U.S. border into Texas in August 2000, wanting a better life for their family.
Elda’s husband was pulled over for a traffic incident in 2010 when the police found that he was living in the country illegally.
Although both Elda and her husband have auto insurance using their Mexican identification cards, neither possess driver’s licenses, a document that’s prohibited for undocumented immigrants in Texas in any case.
Due to a county collaboration through the federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities, the police turned him over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Elda’s husband still has an open deportation order and a court date set for June.
Elda was also recently pulled over for a traffic violation and was given a $700 ticket. “My kids worry that I’ll get another ticket and both parents will be deported to Mexico,” Elda said in Spanish through United We Dream’s Communications Manager Mario Carrillo.
When Elda’s family heard about the president’s announcement in November 2014, she said that she was relieved because “we knew that we could have simple things like opening a bank account or going about my life without the fear of deportation. [The DAPA program] would have provided me the opportunity to get a driver’s license and the stability of mind to drive my kids to school.”
After the Texas lawsuit, Elda said that her life is now filled with uncertainty, explaining, “I don’t know if they will take me, my husband, and my oldest child.”
‘My wife would finally have a driver’s license.’
T.G. and his wife came to the country from Mongolia in 2003 “in hopes of providing better education for our son and starting a new life.” They would be able to apply for DAPA through their second son, a U.S. citizen child born in 2006. For T.G. and his wife, DAPA “would provide our family with opportunities to improve our lives and feel like a bigger part of the community and country in general.
My wife would finally have a driver’s license and we would both be able to work legally and not be afraid of deportation and separation from our kids.”
“I ask my [oldest] son every week what is happening with DAPA and why we are waiting so long for it,” T.G. said. Although they haven’t personally been affected by deportation, they have a friend who was deported and left behind his wife to take care of their six-year-old. As T.G. explains it, one of his sons hasn’t quite grasped what it means that his parents are undocumented, but “isn’t happy” that his parents are always nervous and worried.
‘It hurts me to see her cry.’
Francisco Curiel, a 22-year-old undocumented college student in New York City, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with his younger sister about three months after the 2007 cut-off date for the original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He qualifies for the expanded DACA program because the cut-off date for that program had been extended to 2010. The expanded DACA program was blocked from going into effect back in February.
Although Francisco secured a private scholarship to enroll in his second year in college to study sociology and urban studies, he was hoping that the expanded DACA would have “given me a work permit. Even with my scholarship, I still have to buy food or need transportation. Sometimes it’s really hard not being able to apply for jobs. They always ask for Social Security numbers. It’s really important for me to get my I.D.”
Francisco explained that it’s been difficult to tell his peers of his undocumented status, “It’s 2015 and it’s still hard for me to come out of the shadows and tell someone that I’m undocumented. I’m afraid to tell people even though if you’re my friend, I’d like to be myself.” But in light of his work as an immigrant advocate “working on the DREAM Act [a federal bill that would have granted an eventual pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants] for the past six years and rallying Congress,” Francisco said that he felt that he was “left behind” twice because he was unable to apply for the original DACA program, but again can’t do it now because of the lawsuit.
“The second time is really painful,” Francisco said. “It was more like anger than pain because this time I felt really, really happy. … I was already making plans — I was going to have the opportunity to work and help my mother and my family. After the lawsuit, my mother got very sad. It hurts me to see her cry.”
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