The Moment of Truth for Expanded DACA and DAPA

The Moment of Truth for Expanded DACA and DAPA

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Photo: Gerardo Romo / El Diario

Editor's Note: The original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, enacted in 2012, remains in effect and is not affected by the current Supreme Court case. Two other programs, one that expands DACA, and one that creates a new program for parents called DAPA, are being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court. Editors of La Opinión write that the decision, expected in June, could impact the lives of millions of immigrants across the United States.

Today’s debate in the U.S. Supreme Court will determine if President Obama abused his authority by imposing allegedly onerous rules on states. Behind the legalese lies the future of millions of people who, despite having lived in the United States long enough to integrate fully into our society, still live in the shadows and under permanent threat of deportation.

The case United States v. Texas -‒ which addresses the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children ‒- and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program ‒- which protects and grants work permits to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents ‒- has reached the Supreme Court at an unusual moment, both because it is an election year and because the Court is currently incomplete due to the passing of Judge Antonin Scalia.

While the political climate surrounding immigration has been tense for a long time, the fact that the Republican primary has become a witch hunt against undocumented people has made the situation worse.

On the other hand, Scalia’s death took a conservative judge out of the equation. In the case of a 4-4 tie, the preliminary injunction issued to block the executive orders would remain in place.

All eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy. Often more pragmatic than his fellow judges, in the past his vote has swayed sides and has frequently turned out to be the decisive one. The hopes of millions of families are set on Kennedy, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan.

Presenting the arguments will take only 90 minutes, in which dozens of documents in favor and against the programs could influence the judges’ decision. We hope that the justices will take into account the numerous legal precedents involving executive orders, as well as the specific context of DACA and DAPA. Using executive decisions to determine the priorities of federal agencies is an accepted presidential power. In this case, making a priority of deporting the most dangerous undocumented criminals while temporarily protecting a category of immigrants who are integrated into U.S. society may be controversial, but not illegal.

DACA and DAPA only signify temporary relief and they could be annulled by the next president but, right now, they are the only alternative to provide millions of men, women and youths who are part of our society the peace of mind of knowing that their families will not be separated.