On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a one-line decision, denying millions of families the opportunity to live without fearing that they could one day be torn apart.
Because of an equally divided court, an injunction put in place by a federal district court in Texas and upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was allowed to stand, and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents cannot move forward.
I will admit to not being shocked by this decision. As an attorney and advocate for immigrant rights, I’ve learned to brace for disappointment. But this time I could not take this decision in stride.
The mere proposal of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents is a reflection of our broken immigration system.
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With more than 11 million undocumented people living in the United States, we need to address comprehensive immigration reform.
President Barack Obama acted in his limited authority by proposing the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents after Congress failed to make any meaningful change to the immigration laws. We cannot allow the status quo to continue.
I understand that immigration is a politically sensitive topic and this is an election year, but that doesn’t excuse inaction. Time and time again, opinion polls clearly have shown that an overwhelming majority of Americans support immigration reform.
This isn’t a contested fact. We need our laws to change; we want this to happen but we are stuck in this disconnect.
We will stay there as long as the conversation is about building walls and not about addressing the broken system that made us think we needed a wall in the first place.
We cannot keep putting politics over families. This is what really gets to me.
I have met with more than a hundred families between the time the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents was announced on Nov. 20, 2014, and last week.
Just in our metro area alone, there are thousands of people who could have benefited from the stability of knowing that they would be able to come home to their U.S. citizen children. These are people who have lived in the United States for dozens of years and take every precaution to live in the shadows.
These vulnerable people are disproportionately the victims of unreported crimes and workplace abuses.
Their very young children learn this fear and apprehension and carry this trauma with them throughout their lives.
I know that some people will say that it’s the immigrants’ fault for being here without a legal status. They broke the law, and they need to leave. They don’t deserve Obama’s “amnesty.” It’s that perspective that allows the shadows to grow and for more and more people to find refuge in them.
By not permitting change, we support the status quo of permitting millions of people to effectively become second-class citizens. If you don’t like this, tell your member of Congress. Tell Congress we need a system that allows people to come to the United States legally.
Tell them we need to encourage highly skilled workers to improve our economy, and we need to punish employers who exploit unauthorized workers. Tell them that we need to treat people in immigration court exactly the same as we would in criminal court.
If Congress won’t listen, then be sure to make your voice heard in November at the ballot box.
Valerie Sprout of Shawnee is an immigration attorney focusing on family-based and humanitarian cases. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.