In June 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will determine the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration that expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and created Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA).
On February 16, 2015, Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen temporarily enjoined DAPA and the planned expansion of DACA. The court reasoned that Texas has standing to bring the lawsuit because the extended DACA and DAPA programs will create a new class of individuals who are eligible to apply for state-subsidized driver’s licenses for which Texas would incur substantial processing and issuance costs. Judge Hanen further noted that the Government did not comply with notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The injunction meant that the two programs could not be implemented. On November 9, 2015, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reaffirmed the decision. On April 18, 2016, SCOTUS began hearing oral arguments in United States v. Texas. This decision is expected in June 2016 and will determine whether they will unfreeze DAPA and the expanded DACA programs.
While the court’s injunction does not affect the existing DACA program, millions of undocumented parents of United States citizens and permanent residents must wait for SCOTUS to overturn the existing decision before USCIS can roll out the DAPA program. Until this ruling is reversed, USCIS is barred from implementing either the expanded DACA or DAPA programs.
SCOTUS is expected to make a decision on this matter in late June 2016. SCOTUS’ decision is final. Should SCOTUS rule against the federal government, it will be up to Congress to implement long overdue immigration reform legislation. However, if SCOTUS rules in favor of the federal government, the expanded DACA programs and DAPA will be rolled out.
While no one can say for sure how SCOTUS will decide, the SCOTUS has generally recognized the authority of the President’s office to exercise prosecutorial discretion. In fact, every U.S. president since President Eisenhower has used this authority to grant some form of temporary immigration relief. The expanded DACA programs and DAPA will provide temporary relief from deportation to millions of individuals and positively impacting families, communities, and the economy of the United States.
What does this mean for me?
President Obama’s November 2014 enforcement policy is still in effect. Regardless of how the court decides, the decision does not affect how the government enforces immigration policy or if the government should or should not deport certain undocumented individuals. Further, undocumented individuals who are eligible for either DACA or DAPA can also reasonably expect to be protected by the immigration enforcement policy which is estimated to protect nearly 10 million undocumented individuals in the United States.
Am I eligible for DAPA?
To qualify for DAPA, you must meet the following criteria:
- Be the parent of a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) on November 20, 2014;
- Be unlawfully in the US on November 20, 2014;
- Have resided continuously in the US since prior to January 1, 2010;
- You are eligible even if you are presently in removal proceedings or are under a Final Order of Removal.