“Baldo came to the United States from Michoacán, Mexico, in 1988, when he was 17 years old. He lives in Pasadena, California, with his wife and their two U.S. citizen daughters, ages nine and 13. While in the United States, he trained as an electrician and, for nearly 20 years, worked for the same company installing electrical wiring and residential security systems. He lost his job in March 2014 when his employer discovered that Baldo was undocumented. Baldo’s employer told Baldo that he hated to lose him and that he would like to rehire him as soon as Baldo obtained work authorization. Baldo’s current work as an independent contractor has created financial difficulties for him and his family, as he can no longer rely on a weekly paycheck and cannot count on getting work every week. The lack of a reliable income makes it difficult for Baldo to plan for his family’s financial future.” -Brief filed by immigrants’ rights, civil rights and labor groups in U.S. v. Texas
The futures of Baldo and his family and millions of other immigrant families are on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision in U.S. v. Texas expected in June. Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit in February 2015 to block President Obama’s November 2014 executive action to help keep immigrant families together. The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiatives would help parents and young adults remain in the U.S. temporarily to work, further their education, and support their families. Baldo’s story is documented in one of the 19 friend of the court briefs filed on behalf of more than 1,000 organizations and individuals supporting the President’s executive actions.
The Children’s Defense Fund joined 75 other education, health and child advocacy organizations in one of these briefs. The National Immigration Law Center says the multiple briefs in this case “demonstrate the severe, nationwide harm — to millions of individual families, to the safety of our communities, and to local and national economic well-being — produced by the injunction barring implementation of the Obama administration’s DAPA and expanded DACA programs.”
DAPA would allow immigrant parents like Baldo with citizen children to seek protection from deportation, get a work permit, and keep their families together. The brief shares more about his story: “Baldo’s financial difficulties are compounded by his fear of being forced to return to Michoacán, where he has not lived in nearly 30 years. He has heard from family members about kidnappings and other drug cartel-related violence, and would not feel safe returning to Michoacán. Given the risk of harm, he would not want to take his daughters there, but he also would not want to be separated from them.”
An estimated 16 million people in the United States have mixed-status families like Baldo’s. One in five undocumented immigrant adults has a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse and about 3.8 million undocumented immigrants have children who are U.S. citizens. Broad documentation shows how deportation can result not only in separation of children from a parent but also food insecurity, challenges in accessing health care, housing instability, and sometimes entry of children into foster care. Families lose the financial stability provided by their formerly employed parent and the local economy suffers lower tax revenue. The very real threat of a parent’s removal is causing millions of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children emotional, psychological, and educational harm. DAPA would allow a parent like Baldo to return to his former job and stay with his family for at least three years without fear of deportation, with the opportunity for renewal.
By expanding DACA, the Department of Homeland Security would offer deferred action to more young people brought to the United States as children before their sixteenth birthday. They must have continuously lived in the U.S. since January 2010 and every day since August 15, 2012, have a high school diploma or equivalent, or be in school. They would have access to important educational opportunities, internships and career and vocation training and have better chances of new jobs and increased earnings. The state of Texas’ injunction prevents an estimated 290,000 people brought to the country as children from applying for DACA.
The friend of the court brief of educators and children’s advocates which CDF joined cites two young women who benefited from the initial DACA initiative. Tonya had dropped out of high school in Arizona, discouraged after her parents returned to Mexico, but DACA gave her an incentive to complete her GED and enroll in a medical assistance training program. With DACA support and the needed identification, college student Jessica was able to volunteer at a hospital, apply for an internship at a medical school, and take the MCAT, hoping to move on to her dream of medical school. With expanded DACA in place more young people like these will be able to pursue education and jobs.
Qualifying for these temporary, renewable deportation deferrals requires people to meet a variety of requirements and pass a criminal background check. In recognition of the benefits for children and families and the economic future of our country, there is very broad support for DAPA and expanded DACA. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia; 116 cities and counties (including Brownsville and Austin, TX, New Orleans, LA, Knoxville, TN, Atlanta, GA, Birmingham, AL, Los Angeles, CA, and New York City), along with the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors; 51 current and former chiefs of police and sheriffs and the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Police Executive Research Forum; 326 immigrants’ rights, civil rights, labor, and social service organizations; a bipartisan group of former members of Congress; 225 current U.S. senators and representatives; and former federal immigration and Homeland Security officials have filed friend of the court briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court.
I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will seize this opportunity to move our nation forward, prevent family break up, end the stressful hardships countless families face, and give hope and stability to millions of families, children, and young adults who would benefit from the President’s executive actions.
In the Jewish and Christian traditions, Leviticus 19:33-34 commands, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Let all of us break our silence and speak up about the suffering of our sisters and brothers whose family members are at risk of being torn apart by deportation.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to staging.childrensdefense.org.
Mrs. Edelman’s Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.