By Thomas Kennedy
Millions of hardworking families across this country have been anxiously waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on President Obama's plan to provide deportation relief to undocumented immigrants in this country.
On Thursday, with one simple sentence, the justices crushed the hopes and dreams of those families: "The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court." The 4-4 decision by the court means that the lawsuit blocking the president's order, known as DAPA and DACA+, stands and that immigrants who had invested more than a year to this fight in the hopes of coming out of the shadows and living a normal life without fear will once again live with uncertainty.
This is particularly painful for me, as my parents live in this country without papers and would have benefitted from Obama's executive action. When DAPA was signed back in November 2014, my parents quickly gathered all the necessary documents for the application process and organized them into neat folders. I remember their excitement, after years of waiting for comprehensive immigration reform and a couple of close brushes with it happening in 2007 and 2013, the DAPA/DACA executive actions were hard fought victories for our community. My father was particularly hopeful, as he was suffering from a severe form of arthritis on his hip joints that made walking extremely difficult and painful for him and he was unable to get the healthcare he needed because of his status. He hoped thought that through DAPA he would finally be able to get the treatment he desperately needed.
It was heartbreaking for me to see my mom cry all morning when the court's decision was announced. I felt helpless in telling her that things would be O.K. My mother has always been my source of inspiration. I became an activist because of her. I grew up watching my mom take control of her life and narrative while coming out of the shadows. It left an indelible impression on me. And now I'm in this fight, not only for her, but for the hundreds of good hard-working people I've met. Thursday morning did not dent my mom's resolve and as always, her strength emboldened me. My mom told me that although this was a severe setback, she would not give up and that our movement would need to mobilize like never before to defeat the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has permeated the presidential race.
I watched Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan that morning claim that "This is another major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers," even though the split decision sets no national precedent as to whether the president acted within the law when he announced his executive order in 2014. The juxtaposition of watching Republicans celebrating this painful setback for millions of families and perpetuating the anti-immigrant policies that led them to nominate a racist bigot to the presidency, while at the same time watching the pain felt by members of my community made one thing clear for me, the November elections are more important now than ever.
The death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia has left an open seat in the court and rumors of possible retirement of other members make the presidential election a crucial one. We have a chance to change the makeup of a court with a conservative majority that unable to make the right judicial decisions to better American society. As the immigration ruling has shown our movement, we cannot surrender the Supreme Court nominating power to a xenophobic bigot that wants to forcefully deport 11 million immigrants and ban Muslims from entering the country.
We have a moral obligation to our families and our communities to vote so we can have a say in the policies that so clearly affect our loved ones.
Moving forward, I think of what my mom told me the morning of the ruling, "We move forward and continue the fight because we know that we stand on the right side of history." Our movement is unstoppable because we no longer live in fear and we are willing to fight until we are victorious. The president's executive action was never the ultimate goal but merely a stepping stone to achieve Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a pathway to citizenship.
Thomas Kennedy is a writing fellow for the Center for Community Change Action.