Phoenix New Times (Arizona)
By Griselda Nevarez
March 23, 2016
With less than a month before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments over a deportation-relief program for undocumented parents that has been on hold for more than a year, a new study finds Arizona is one of the states with the most U.S. citizens living with family members who’d benefit from the program.
The study by the Center for American Progress finds 212,000 U.S. citizens — of whom 181,000 are children — live in the same Arizona household as undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, also known as DAPA.
The program would allow undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to temporarily stay and work in the United States. The Migration Policy Institute estimates 97,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona would qualify for DAPA.
Nationwide, there are 6.1 million U.S. citizens living with family members who are eligible for DAPA. California has the highest number of U.S. citizens living with DAPA-eligible family members at more than 1.8 million, and Texas comes in second with nearly 1.1 million. Arizona places sixth.
Lizet Ocampo, associate director of immigration at the Center for American Progress, noted that these numbers don’t include U.S. citizens who don’t live in the same household as DAPA-eligible immigrants. The numbers also don’t include lawful permanent residents who live with or have family members who’d benefit from DAPA.
“We really wanted to show that this isn’t just something that impacts the undocumented population, which is in itself important,” Ocampo said. “It also impacts our whole country and all of our communities, including U.S. citizens.”
President Barack Obama used his executive powers to announce the DAPA program in late 2014. He also announced the expansion of the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, which offers deportation relief and work permits to undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children. Both actions were challenged in court by Texas and 25 other states, including Arizona.
The states argue that the president overstepped his authority when he circumvented Congress to create the DAPA program and expand the DACA program via executive action. Subsequently, a federal judge prohibited the Obama administration from implementing DAPA and expanding DACA. Only a ruling by the Supreme Court would allow Obama to move forward with the programs before he leaves office.
Supporters of the programs have called on Governor Doug Ducey to drop Arizona from the lawsuit. The Republican has refused, saying Obama should work with Congress instead of taking unilateral action. Arizona initially was added to the lawsuit by former Governor Jan Brewer before she left office in January 2015.
Supreme Court justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments over the lawsuit on April 18 and a decision could come in June.
If the Supreme Court sides with the Obama administration and allows the implementation of DAPA and the expansion of DACA, millions of undocumented immigrants would be able to stay and work in the U.S. and “fully participate in our economy,” Ocampo said.
She pointed to a study her group released last year that found Arizona’s gross domestic product, or GDP, would increase by nearly $6.2 million over a 10-year period if DAPA and expanded DACA are implemented and if the current DACA program continues. In addition, an average of 780 jobs would be created every year.
“There will be a huge economic benefit not only to the families impacted, but to the country and all communities if DAPA is implemented,” Ocampo said.
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