WHILE the fate of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on programs to expand deferred action for undocumented immigrants has yet to be decided by the US Supreme Court, individuals eligible for the programs are encouraged to continue preparing for their implementation.
“We believe that these programs are perfectly legal and will be of help, and so it’s important for people in the meantime to gather their documents that would demonstrate that they meet the requirements, that they are eligible for relief under these programs,” said Hairo Cortes, program coordinator of Orange County Immigrant Youth United.
Cortes was among six speakers who, during a media roundtable on Wednesday, Feb. 17, addressed what immigrant families can do while waiting for the top court’s decision. The roundtable was hosted by Ready California, a cross-sector collaborative effort of various organizations, consulates, and ethnic media.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments about the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs – which Obama announced in November 2014 – in the spring.
Concerns have risen following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday, Feb. 13, as Scalia was the leading conservative voice on the top court.
Joyce Noche, directing attorney of Orange County pro bono law firm Public Law Center, said the high court may choose to move forward and hear oral arguments scheduled in April and then issue a decision in June. If the outcome is favorable for the immigrant community, implementation of the programs would begin before the end of Obama’s term.
If the court comes to a 4-4 vote, the lower court’s ruling of an injunction will stand.
The court may also decide to hold off on making a decision until a new justice is appointed in place of Scalia.
“What I do want to stress and reiterate is that the DACA and DAPA programs are an extension of the president’s authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion. Many legal experts and law professors believe that the president was within his power to do so,” Noche said during Wednesday’s roundtable.
Data from Ready California indicates that more than 1.5 million individuals in the state are eligible for DACA and DAPA.
Members of Ready California also offered the reminder that the Supreme Court’s ruling is separate from the original DACA program. Eligible individuals are encouraged to apply, while those who have received deferred action through DACA are urged to request for renewal.
Three individuals who have benefited from the original DACA program shared their stories with media on Wednesday, including David Lee, a 22-year-old Korean who arrived in the United States when he was about 11 or 12 years old. Lee said his visa expired when he was 21, that he had been homeless and had engaged in illegal activities to make money. He majored in theater in college and said he would use his passport as identification to get into clubs.
Now, he has a work permit and is working toward getting a car.
“Thanks to DACA, I can have more fun, I feel more free, and I already have a couple of IMDB credits,” he said. “I got more opportunities to do the things that I wanted to do before I got DACA. And those of you who [are] in the situation like my past before DACA, I want to tell you that don’t be skeptical like I was. Take action. There are a lot of community services people [who] sacrifice their time and really help you out to [get] a job, get a car…”
Another issue discussed at Wednesday’s roundtable was what to do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrive at the residence of undocumented immigrants.
Carlos Perea, project manager at Resistencia, Autonomia, Igualdad, IideraZgo, also known as RAIZ, offered a three-step plan: 1) Have an emergency contact who can move easily if you were to be detained, 2) Have contact with a trusted attorney or advocacy community organization, 3) Have an emergency plan for your children and have a contact ready to take care of your child in the event of deportation.