Immigrants and advocates rallied on Tuesday in support the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability programme (DAPA) in cities across the United States.
The executive action signed by US President Obama was meant to allow undocumented parents of US citizens and legal permanent residents (“green card” holders) to have temporary relief from the risk of deportation and enable them to start applying for work permits.
May 19 was the day DAPA was supposed to begin, however, in December 2014 a coalition of 26 states sued to block the programme.
As a result, the application process was frozen by a Texas judge in February and the fate of 3.7 million undocumented immigrants eligible for DAPA remains up in the air until an appeals court in New Orleans decides whether to lift the injunction.
“Millions of immigrants had hoped that today would be the day they could come out of the shadows and put the fear of deportation behind them,” said Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a union that represents, among others, hospital and food care workers.
Barack Obama, in his address to the nation on immigration in November, called America’s immigration system “broken.”
“All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart,” he said.
He explained that DAPA would not benefit criminals or felons but would be extended to families and children. He said undocumented immigrants would receive a chance to “come out of the shadows and get with the law.”
“So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes -- you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation.”
While there are estimates that DAPA would lead to an $88 million income for Americans while adding 20,000 jobs per year over the next 10 years (Center for American Progress), DAPA opponents claim the programme would harm the economy by giving undocumented immigrants access to welfare programmes.
On May 11, 113 Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ken.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte (Vir.) and 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz (Tex.) signed an amicus brief to keep the injunction in place while the court makes a ruling on the case.
The Republicans argue Obama's executive action "changes the law and sets a new policy, exceeding the executive’s constitutional authority and disrupting the delicate balance of powers."