SCOTUS is About to Decide Which Families Get to Stay Families – And Which Don’t

In the last few years, the Obama Administration has deported a record number of people. Another way to read that is, a record number of mothers and fathers have been torn from their spouses and children, a record number of siblings and other loved ones don’t know when or if they will ever see each other again. The only relief from family breakups through deportation for immigrants without papers has been through sheer luck and two temporary programs, ironically enough, from the Obama Administration.

In 2012, President Obama created Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA), which allowed eligible younger people who had been brought to the U.S. as children to apply for work permits and to not be deported. In 2014, there was a follow-up with Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), a similar program aimed at immigrant parents who had been in the U.S. for at least five years and who have children who are U.S. citizens.

Apparently, the idea of nominal, if temporary, stability for millions of people, the communities they support and, in some cases, the people they employ, was just too much for some. The notoriously racist Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and then a group of Republican attorneys general, including Michigan’s Bill Schuette, challenged the legality of relief from deportation.

Those of us who believe immigrants deserve to have families like everyone else were encouraged by the weakness of the attorneys’ general argument, much of which challenges the well-established notions and legal precedents of what the president can do through executive orders. DAPA and DACA are executive orders and, by the way, so was President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that officially ended slavery and was thus far more sweeping than temporary relief from deportation.

After several up-and-down court battles, the fight to keep families together is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. On April 18, the eight Justices will hear oral argument on whether millions of immigrant moms and dads will get to stay with their children.

Few legal decisions strike so close to the heart of what it means to be a human being. If the Court is split, the reactionary decision from the Federal Court of Appeals 5th Circuit will stand and millions upon millions could lose contact with their children.

Of course, many people are weighing in on behalf of humane treatment for immigrant families. Many have filed amicus briefs – statements, in this case, in support of deportation relief that would help keep families together. More than 450 such briefs have been filed from a variety of elected officials and groups including four states and the District of Columbia, mayors, county officials, heads of local law enforcement agencies, U.S. Representatives and Senators, civil rights, labor, and immigrants’ rights groups, faith organizations, educators and children’s advocates.

Just as importantly, people will be rallying Monday, April 18 on the steps of the Supreme Court for a decision that allows immigrant families to remain families. Immigration reform advocates such as Michigan United will be traveling to the capitol to ask the Court for a decision that recognizes the legitimate need of immigrant families and the communities they live in not to be torn apart. It’s the best we can do until we win the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, which will probably be finalized with a Supreme Court decision that is yet to come.