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Jun 29 2016
by Johana Guerra-Martinez

Deadlock on Immigration: Heavy Padlock for Millions of Immigrants

By Johana Guerra-Martinez - Jun 29 2016

Among the several issues raised throughout this year’s presidential election, the topic of immigration has been discussed countless times. Yet, failure to provide any effective decision on the popular topic has once again been realized by the Supreme Court as of Thursday, June 23, 2016 regarding President Barack Obama’s Immigration Plan known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents). Although there are several instances that have led to the disheartening present situation, the inevitable consequences seem riskier than before. Millions of immigrants are witnessing Obama’s initially promising legacy as it is stalled once again in the case of United States v. Texas, No. 15-674 as it concludes with no real answer, no sign of hope and a fate that is far too dividing to comfortably be left as is until we have our next president and learn what the next step forward or backwards will be for millions of people.

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A devastating 4-4 tie vote from the Supreme Court on the issue can only be matched by the equally hollow nine words that were used to describe the end of Thursday’s deliberation: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” The proposal for DAPA was slightly different than the DACA proposal that has generously allowed me the freedom and confidence to write this article. While DACA provides two year work permits and exemption from deportation for children who immigrated to the US before their 16th birthday and have lived here continuously since before 2007, DAPA would grant the same deferred status with a three year work permit and exemption from deportation to parents who have lived here since before 2010 and have children that are American citizens or lawful permanent residents. As someone who maintains DACA status, I feel that it benefits the future of students and aspiring youth in general who wish to contribute to society without feeling like they have to hide who they are, especially when they feel they belong here – in the country they grew up in. Similarly, DAPA seems to protect the integrity of family that stems from remaining loyal and supportive parents to children that are US citizens that will, without a doubt, thrive the most by trusting in a country that does not aim to tear families apart with the threat of deportation. Thus, Thursday’s non-decision does not provide any consolation for the apparently failed efforts to prove that that promise can become a reality.


Rather, some would say that the president has in fact worsened the situation ever since he came into office. According to Julia Preston from the New York Times, “Mr. Obama has carried out many more deportations than previous presidents, setting a record of more than 2.4 million formal removals.” Yet, his presidency has also led to a “sharp decrease in deportations — down 43 percent in 2015 from 409,849 in 2012.” Thursday’s case itself revolves around actions like these that have garnered disapproval from many, while providing security for others. Specifically, it was Texas along with 26 other states that had sued the Obama administration for attempting to use his executive authority to implement the program in 2014. According to Adam Liptak and Michael D. Shear from the New York Times, “Texas said it had standing because it would be costly for the state to give driver’s licenses to immigrants affected by the federal policy.” Liptak and Shear note that the appeals court suggested that it was far-reaching of his power to make such decisions as it was far from his “statuatory authority.” Moreover, Donald Trump seems to share the same opinion on the issue, as he describes the ruling as a success in “[blocking] one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a President.” 

While I am inspired by the president’s genuine efforts to help communities in the best way he can, we will never know if they would have enough. It is apparent that the Obama administration has faced plenty of opposition, but it has reached this frustrating point of no return. When we want to point fingers and blame, I would point at the Supreme Court in this instance. Previously, there was an effective refusal to consider the president’s moderate nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, for the spot in the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

This nominee would have prevented a tie-breaker and the deadlock that continues to haunt more than four million immigrants. As a result, I agree with the president’s comments on our “broken immigration system” and how Thursday takes us “further from the country that we aspire to be.”

In sensitive, controversial times like these, it is important that we maintain our communities and look out for each other. This means voting and encouraging others to vote because there are people like me who dream of attaining that privilege. This means advocating for children who have yet to realize the struggles that come from birth that they will learn to either overcome or unfortunately succumb to in the face of opponents to progressive immigration efforts like Donald Trump and his supporters. This means embracing who you are at every possible moment because there are those who want you to succeed, even though you fail sometimes. Although Obama’s initiative has been blocked and the injunction continues, his efforts will not be forgotten. Nor will the countless families who have and will suffer unless action is taken. Because there are so many benefits to programs like these that I have experienced first-hand, it is hard to believe that people still try their best to prevent something that at its core is meant to strengthen and build an entire nation’s economy and sense of community. Therefore, it is Hillary Clinton’s following words that best warns of a fate that will not only affect millions of immigrants, but the millions of residents altogether in this country. Will we face the same grave consequences that Hamlet did from his continuous indecision? Or will we step up collectively to take action?

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Johana Guerra-Martinez - University of California, Los Angeles

Johana is a UCLA Bruin and International Baccalaureate Full Diploma Graduate. Raised in San Bernardino, she enjoys public speaking, puppies, and is a first-year majoring in Political Science. She is also Mexican, trilingual, and always hopeful for more.

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