Why the Supreme Court needs to unfreeze Obama’s immigration policies

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April 19, 2016

This blog post was co-written by Francisco Dueñas, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Proyecto Igualdad; and Carmina Ocampo, Staff Attorney and Immigrants Rights Program Strategist.

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in Texas v. United States, a case that could unfreeze President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Announced in November 2014, Obama’s programs – Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) and an expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – temporarily grant work authorization and protection from deportation to millions of undocumented-immigrant parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents and to undocumented immigrant youth who qualify.

Unfortunately, these initiatives never took effect. A federal court ruled in favor of Texas and 25 other states in a lawsuit they filed to block implementation of the programs, and the ruling was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

President Obama’s initiatives were legal and just. That is why in March, Lambda Legal joined a diverse coalition of 326 immigration, civil rights, labor and social service groups led by the National Immigration Law Center in filing an amicus brief in this case, urging the Court to lift the injunction that blocked the implementation of the executive actions that would positively impact the lives of millions of immigrants.

When President Obama’s initiatives were first announced, LGBT groups including Lambda Legal expressed disappointment that these programs unfairly excluded many members of the LGBT community, especially transgender immigrants, because of the requirement that individuals seeking DAPA relief have children.

Yet although we were disappointed by the limits of the expanded DAPA and DACA programs, we acknowledged that they were important and necessary steps to keep families together and immigrant communities whole, and allow undocumented immigrants to live and work in this country with dignity and without fear of being deported. 

If the injunction is lifted, the initiatives could provide as many as 5 million immigrants with work authorization and temporary relief from deportation

Thousands of LGBT undocumented immigrants will apply for these temporary protections, as thousands have for the current limited DACA program. Indeed, according to this study from the Center for American Progress, LGBT youth are  overrepresented among DACA recipients. That group also doesn’t include the thousands more LGBT youth who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents but whose parents are undocumented. President Obama’s programs are important and necessary steps to keep families and communities together.

Ultimately, Congress needs to do its job and propose legislation to update our current outdated immigration laws. In the meantime, we support these executive actions that, at least temporarily, move us forward, and we hope for a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that will allow that to happen.