By Ann Kirkpatrick and Ruben Gallego
February 27, 2016
Graciela is a working mom in Phoenix. Her job as a caregiver for special-needs children keeps her busy and pays the bills. And at home, her youngest kids – ages 12, 13 and 14 – are like most kids that age, eager to finish their homework and spend time with friends.
Jobs, school, the usual challenges of daily life. Graciela and her kids may not seem like a family in the middle of a political firestorm. But their struggle to be a part of the American dream underscores what’s really at stake when it comes to the Supreme Court.
Senate Republicans have refused to consider anyone the president nominates to the Supreme Court, and we believe this obstructionism is a disgrace to the Senate and the Constitution. But while Washington is hunkering down for a long, noisy battle, the quiet stories of people like Graciela and her family deserve our attention.
Several years ago, Graciela fled to Arizona after suffering domestic violence in her small community in Oaxaca, Mexico. There, she had lived in fear. Here, she is building a stronger future for herself and her children, two of whom are U.S. citizens.
The fear is not entirely gone, however, because of the reality of deportation and the absence of comprehensive immigration reform. Graciela could qualify to remain legally in our country through a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.
DAPA allows undocumented immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens to apply for a program that provides work permits and protection from deportation. When the Republican-led House failed to pass immigration reform, the president used his powers under our existing immigration laws to create the program.
Last year, a Texas judge entered an injunction against DAPA, and a conservative appeals court in Louisiana upheld the injunction. A 4-4 split decision in the Supreme Court would uphold this misguided decision and leave millions of families in limbo.
Legal limbo – it’s a familiar feeling in Arizona. As a border state, we’ve suffered from Washington’s refusal to fix our broken immigration system. Arizona families want reform. Educators, farmers, small-business owners, chambers of commerce and many others want reform. Yet House GOP leaders continue to block reform.
Arizona has more than 186,000 minor children with a DAPA-eligible parent, according to a report from USC’s Dornsife Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. That’s 11 percent of all minor children in Arizona – and 93 percent of these children are U.S. citizens.
Nationwide, about 3.7 million adults could benefit from DAPA, and about 6.3 million children live with a DAPA-eligible parent, the report found. About 5.5 million of these children are U.S. citizens.
These families are working hard for a stake in the American dream. We need to bring them out of the shadows and empower them to work and thrive without fear of their families being torn apart. This would make our entire nation stronger.
A Supreme Court vacancy may be a political game for obstructionists in Washington, but the stakes are too high for Graciela and families like hers across our nation to let these games continue.
Now more than ever, voices of leadership and common sense must call on U.S. senators to perform their constitutional duties and fill the vacancy. One such voice is Arizona’s homegrown judicial icon, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
"I think we need somebody there now to do the job," said the Reagan appointee recently. "And let's get on with it."
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com