Saturday September 18, 2021

Immigrant rights

Republican officials in Texas are celebrating a major political win after successfully suing the federal government over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA has been a GOP target since 2012 when then-President Barack Obama first created it and then in 2014 expanded it via executive action. It has faced numerous Republican-led legal challenges and subsequent court rulings as well as an outright suspension of the program during Donald Trump’s administration. In spite of a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that upheld it, a new Texas federal court ruling by a known anti-immigrant judge named Andrew Hanen deemed the program ‘illegal’, leaving the lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in limbo once more.

One such immigrant is Fatima Flores, the political director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), who just a week and a half before the ruling had renewed her DACA status. Had Hanen’s ruling come before her renewal, Flores would likely have been among those immigrants at risk of losing her status given that no new applications are being processed.

Flores told me in an interview that she sees the devastating ruling as “an attack on our immigrant communities,” and points out that there is a “backlog of thousands of DACA recipient hopefuls [who] will not have a decision on their case.” This means they are in jeopardy of losing employment and benefits, which in turn could result in evictions. The ruling also means that those immigrants who might have been able to adjust their status under DACA are now eligible for possible deportation. Flores explained, “I came to this country when I was six, and I am 30 now. And I am one of millions of people who have been waiting for something to happen [toward legalization].”

The ruling is even more disappointing considering the role that DACA holders have played as essential workers and health care workers during the pandemic, delivering lifesaving care to U.S. residents. After the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled against Trump’s suspension of the program–saying that the Trump administration did not provide adequate justification for ending it–an estimated 30,000 health care workers with DACA status were protected from deportation and allowed to continue their critical work. The American Medical Association’s general counsel went as far as citing that the central tenet of health care is “do no harm,” and that, “if we strip this population of caregivers out of the system, that’s pretty significant harm.” Hanen’s ruling threatens to do just such harm at a time when the United States appears to be on the cusp of another surge of COVID-19 infections.

Excerpted: ‘After Devastating DACA Ruling, Dreamers Vow to Push for Legalization’