Miami, FL - June 23, 2016 - In a split 4-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has left in place a nationwide injunction that leaves countless immigrants who have lived here for years, worked hard, paid taxes and have U.S. citizen children without hope for a better future. President Obama's directive on November 20, 2014, granting Deferred Action to Parents of U.S. citizen and legal resident children (DAPA) and expanding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), sadly remains on hold and once again immigrant families have been dealt a devastating blow. An estimated 230,000 eligible immigrants in Florida alone could benefit from DAPA/DACA; its implementation over the next 10 years could add over $9 billion to Florida's GDP. Every U.S. president since Eisenhower has used his executive authority to grant temporary immigration relief.
"The fallout of mass deportations since Obama took office has been devastating, especially for vulnerable children, many of whom have ended up in foster care following their parent's removal," noted Cheryl Little, Executive Director of Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice). Between 2012-2014 immigration authorities deported 200,000 persons who have U.S.-born children. According to First Focus, a children's advocacy group, the fear alone of possibly losing a parent can harm a child's long-term health and development. Children of immigrants now comprise one quarter of all U.S. children.
As one of AI Justice's DACA clients, Monica Lazaro, told us after learning of today's decision: "My father is as American as my eight-year-old brother. He pays taxes, goes to work every morning and abides by his morals that drive him to work hard for us, his three children. Today we have lost a battle, but we will keep fighting to keep our families together." Monica came to the US at age 8 with her parents and excelled at Coral Gables High School, where she was Student Government President and in 2011 delivered the graduation speech to her senior class. She has deferred action pursuant to Obama's 2012 DACA initiative and is currently a student at FIU with dreams of becoming a forensic pathologist.
It is important to note that today's ruling does not affect the existing DACA program initiated by Obama in 2012.
For years ICE detainees have been the fastest growing prison population in the country. Since Obama took office, this population has skyrocketed, with over 2.3 million deportations, including 440,000 in 2013 alone. The alarming increase in ICE detention is in large part due to a 2009 Congressional mandate, appropriating funds every year to maintain at least 34,000 immigrant detention beds daily, at a cost to US taxpayers of about $2 billion a year. As a result, ICE has signed contracts with numerous facilities nationwide, including with Miami's Krome Detention Center and the Broward Transitional Center, which together are guaranteed 950 occupied beds daily. No other law enforcement agency has quotas for the number of people it must jail, with good reason.
The real beneficiaries of the bed mandate are county jails, like Florida's Glades and Baker County jails, and to a large extent the private prison industry, whose two largest contractors, the GEO Group and Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), have seen their stocks soar in recent years. Not surprisingly, for-profit businesses have spent millions lobbying Congress to keep the quota.
"Today's decision reminds us of how critically important it is for Congress to step up to the plate and enact sensible immigration reform. Yet this political season such a goal seems more elusive than ever. Even if Donald Trump is not elected President, one thing is clear: anti-immigrant sentiment is far more prevalent in this country than we thought," Little added. Meantime, AI Justice will continue to work tirelessly to save lives and promote Immigration laws that reflect our American ideals.
Obama's initiative was put on hold by Texas Judges after 26 states, including Florida, challenged it. On February 16, 2015, a Texas federal judge concluded that Texas had standing to bring their lawsuit because DAPA and expanded DACA would create a new class of individuals eligible to apply for state-subsidized driver's licenses and other benefits. The court did not address the offsetting economic benefits that states would realize from the President's initiative, including higher wages and increased tax revenue. The ruling also did not address the constitutionality of President Obama's directive. In November 2015, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling in a 2-1 decision.