By Alisia Cordero, Grants Supervisor, New York Legal Assistance Group
Following the U. S. Supreme Court's deadlock last week in a case challenging President Obama's action to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation, a Texas judge's temporary injunction remains in place - and millions of immigrants' lives remain on hold. The President's executive action would have kept immigrant families together while strengthening our communities and our economy. This non-decision is heartbreaking for immigrant families, and for the staff at NYLAG, which served over 78,500 New Yorkers last year - half of whom are immigrants.
The President's initiative was designed to expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to a larger number of people. DACA, introduced in 2012, has already provided temporary relief to 730,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children, allowing them to apply for temporary work authorization and to obtain a social security number, driver's license, and credit card. The President's plan also calls for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) for the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who meet certain criteria. Neither DACA nor DAPA represent a pathway to citizenship, but would remove a barrier for many hardworking immigrants who have been forced to work under the table, often for appallingly low wages and in substandard conditions. Most importantly, thousands of families who have lived in fear of being separated would for the first time be assured that parents and children will not be torn apart.
It is painful for me to remember how excited I was just a few months ago when I was actually in Washington, along with my colleagues, Crystal Moncada and David Mullins, on the day the Supreme Court heard arguments in United States v. Texas, We were among the thousands who gathered outside of the court to show our support and solidarity, and to urge the justices to rule that the President's executive action was constitutional. It was a unique and empowering experience to be among city organizers, advocates and lawyers, as well as students, parents and families - all united in their support of the President's plan as the only solution to the decades-long legislative deadlock in Congress over immigration reform.
While we traveled we heard from young college students hoping the Justices understood the sense of invisibility and alienation they feel by living most of their young lives undocumented in the U.S. One of them, Gustavo, told a reporter, "I am just an American that has extremely difficult legal hurdles, but I am an American and I will achieve."
Now, as millions of deserving immigrants like Gustavo find themselves still in limbo, it is vitally important that we continue to fight for reasonable, fair, compassionate immigration reform. Advocates, elected officials and the voting public must work toward the creation of an immigration system that promotes unity and dignity for immigrant families that have suffered enough under the nation's current broken system.
We stand with our clients and the remarkable immigrant population of New York. Their contributions have made us the vibrant, diverse, thriving city that we are today. Along with agencies across the city we will continue to provide them with the range of legal services and support they need. Immigrants needing assistance in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision can call: NYLAG's DACA/DAPA hotline (212-613-6597); New York State Office for New Americans hotline (1-800-566-7636); or dial 311 and ask for DACA/DAPA information. The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs has also posted information on their website.