Today marks 180 days since President Obama announced that he would use his lawful authority to extend administrative relief to millions of undocumented immigrants through the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA+) and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program. Unfortunately, the organized anti-immigrant movement, and its allies holding elected office, has done everything it can to prevent millions of immigrants from taking advantage of the programs by challenging them in the courts.
Accordingly, advocates seeking to protect immigrant communities are demonstrating across the country today under the banner #Fight4DAPA.
Following the President’s November announcement, nativist spokespersons and leaders, political pundits, and elected officials predictably charged the President with being lawless and characterized the deferred action programs as a blatant act of executive overreach–even though the evidence clearly proves otherwise.
Shortly after the announcement, The Washington Post’s Eli Saslow reported that leading anti-immigrant lawyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had already begun drafting a lawsuit to challenge the deferred action programs. “[Kobach] tells the group he has already begun drafting a suit as the lead attorney, with plans to file it in early December.” Saslow reported from a local event where Kobach was speaking, “Texas is interested in being a plaintiff. So are a few other states.”
Texas was indeed interested. On December 3, recently-elected Texas Governor, Republican Greg Abbott announced his state would be the lead plaintiff in the case and that 16 other states would sign on to the lawsuit as well. Since then the total number of states involved in the lawsuit has grown to 26–all of which the decision to join was made by a Republican Governor or Republican Attorney General, depending on the state. In January, a federal judge, as many expected he would, issued an injunction, temporarily halting the implementation of DACA+ and DAPA. The decision was quickly appealed and a new decision by the Fifth Circuit is currently pending.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the nativist wing of the Republican Party sought to defund the DACA+ and DAPA programs while Congress worked to pass a budget funding the government for Fiscal Year 2015. The anti-immigrant movement joined its Congressional allies in calls to defund the programs. “This funding bill — whatever form it takes — MUST have a provision in there that prohibits the Executive Branch from using any money appropriated by Congress to carry out an executive amnesty program!” read a November 10 email alert from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
These efforts failed and funding for the Department of Homeland Security was passed free of language threatening DACA+/DAPA. Accordingly, the programs are seemingly safe from most legislative threats before the courts have their final say. In attempt to influence the courts, many of the country’s leading anti-immigrant lawmakers and organizations have recently submitted amicus briefs in support of the plaintiff states challenging the deportation relief programs.
Ultimately, the fate of the deportation relief programs announced in November will likely be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates are faithful that the court will vindicate their belief in the legality of these programs and extensive work has been done to prepare immigrant communities for their implementation.
Those very advocates are making their faith in these programs known with demonstrations across the country today.
But whatever the courts decide, one thing is certain: immigrant advocates will continue to fight for their families and communities – and they will not be deterred by nativist attacks from organized anti-immigrant movement.