FOLLOWING the US Supreme Court’s hearing on President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration, US Rep. Dina Titus on Friday, April 22, held a press conference that highlighted the nation’s need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Titus specifically touched on how the policies would benefit undocumented immigrants and the state of Nevada.
“It’s been years since the Senate passed a bipartisan bill,” said Titus, who represents Nevada’s first district, at her Las Vegas District Office. “The House refuses to take it up, we have protested, we have fasted, we have signed discharge petitions, all in hopes of getting that legislation passed because it would bring families … out of the shadows [and] into the mainstream, keep families from being separated and take away that fear that any minute you could be deported.”
Central to the discussion were the programs Obama announced in late 2014, which would have deferred deportation for more than four million undocumented immigrants in the United States. One of the programs, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), would provide temporary relief from deportation and legal work authorization for three years with the possibility of renewal. The other would have expanded a 2012 program aimed at immigrant youth brought to the country as children, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Twenty-six Republican states in the nation filed a lawsuit led by Texas that led to a temporary injunction on the programs. Also in support of it is Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
Titus said that the Supreme Court, which currently has eight members after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, is likely to issue a 4-4 decision on the case and will probably make the ruling in late June. Such a split would keep the programs blocked, but would not set a legal precedent, she said.
Titus said these programs would be beneficial to Nevada, where 8 percent of the population and 10 percent of the workforce is undocumented, according to a 2015 analysis from the Pew Research Center. Additionally, the programs would result in an anticipated gain of $1.3 billion in wages and a $2.5 billion increase in the state’s GDP.
During the conference, some immigrants, including Filipina Maria Perez, shared their stories about how America’s immigration policies affects them.
Perez’s daughter, Jessica May, is currently protected under DACA and was able to work as a field organizer on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign trail.
“Thankfully, we got her papers,” Perez said. “She got denied first. All of my children including me are denied. We went here [legally].”
Perez’s family has been in the United States for 13 years, two of whom are unable to pursue college due to their legal status.
“I was born basically and then I moved here, and then I learned how to speak English. I don’t even know my Tagalog that well and I consider myself more of an American than Filipino.” said Perez’s 19-year-old son Christian Perez, who graduated from high school in 2014.
Also affected by the nation’s immigration policies is Aida Lopez, who has resided in the United States for more than 15 years. Her husband was deported in 2014, kidnapped and never found. She has four US citizen children, one of whom is protected under DACA.
Lopez is also currently under a “stay” that expires next month, after which time Immigration and Customs Enforcement can choose to deport her. But with no criminal background, Lopez is not an enforcement priority.
“If she were to be deported, here are her four children who are US citizens. What would happen to them? Would they go back with her? Would they stay here without their mother? It’s just an untenable situation,” Titus said.
Should the Supreme Court not decide in favor of DAPA and expanded DACA, Titus said she is still calling for immigration reform.
“ I mentioned that it’s economically wise as well as being personally humane and socially important if we pass this and we brought these folks out of the shadows and into the workforce,” Titus said.
“Strong families build strong communities and when we threaten those families or divide those families or keep them from reaching their potential, we are only hurting ourselves,” she added. (Agnes Constante/AJPress)