Activists Promise to Keep Fighting for Immigration Reform as DAPA Hangs in the Balance

Lead Photo: Photo by Laura Skelding
Photo by Laura Skelding
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Only a day has passed since the Supreme Court’s 4-4 decision on the legality of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which intended to shield as many as five million undocumented immigrants who are either the parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents. Through this measure, recipients could also legally work and the benefits would have extended to Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Essentially, with the court’s non-decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that Obama exceeded his power will stand. Led by Texas, 26 states challenged Obama’s executive action, and the program has been halted since February 2015 through Judge Andrew S. Hanen’s preliminary injunction, according to The New York Times.

Related: ICE Plans Largest Immigration Raid Of The Year; Here’s What You Need To Know

During his speech Thursday afternoon, Obama expressed disappointment that his executive action didn’t pass. Multiple times he explained that no real ruling could happen until the court has nine judges, and he scolded the Republican party for their inaction. “Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision. This is part of the consequence of the Republican failure so far to give a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland, my nominee to the Supreme Court,” he said. “It means that the expanded set of common-sense deferred action policies — the ones that I announced two years ago — can’t go forward at this stage, until there is a ninth justice on the Court to break the tie.” Even though the president chose a potential candidate, it’s difficult to nominate a Supreme Court justice in an election year. Undocumented immigrants will have to wait for a decision until the new president is sworn in next January, and he or she can finally choose the missing member.

But the fight is not over. Activists across the country are raising their voices, refusing to let the 2016 presidential campaign circus drown out their message. “We have to keep fighting now,” Maria de León, who awaited the decision outside the Supreme Court, told NBC News. “I can’t vote in November, but you better believe that I will make sure that everyone I know who can vote does so in November. We have to come out from out of the shadows.” 

De León is not alone in thinking this way. Immigration advocates know that they can’t just sit idly by until the next president is sworn in January. They also know they have to prepare for the worst (i.e. the very real possibility that the candidate who has been spouting off anti-immigrant, anti-Latino comments will win), which is why activists got to work right away. Here’s how the undocumented community and their allies will continue to fight as DAPA hangs in the balance: 


Gaby Pacheco

Known as one of the leaders during the Trail of Dreams – a four-month walk from Miami to Washington D.C. – Gaby Pacheco is a prominent immigrants rights leader who fights hate with her bright positivity.

“Everyone talks and knows there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in this nation, and it is becoming more apparent that creating a process for these immigrants to come out of the shadows is not a priority,” she told Remezcla. “The Supreme Court’s non-decision is a reflection of the lack of leadership and will there is in the U.S. to find a common-sense solution that will help not just undocumented immigrants but the country as a whole. It’s not simple, and this struggle is one that needs constant pressure. I will, one, continue sharing my story because our voices matter; we are not just a number. Two, I will make sure I can do everything in my power to get people out to vote. And lastly, I will not get entrenched in the partisan politics that have for too long hurt us; Republicans and Democrats both have failed us.” 


Chicago Activists

In Chicago, about 200 people gathered in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office and chanted, “Si, se puede.” Holding signs that read “No human is illegal,” they vowed to continue fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, according to the Chicago Tribune.

At the same rally, Michael Jarecki, vice president of the Chicago chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, raised lot of concerns moving forward. “If the president wants to go forward with other executive actions, whether it be immigration or other contexts, this decision doesn’t say if the president can extend DACA or create the DAPA program,” Jarecki said. “Had Congress or the Senate done what it should have done and heard the nomination for the Supreme Court, it’s possible that we would have gotten clear guidance on this, and the country could have moved forward with the law as they see it.”


Jose Antonio Vargas

Our Filiprimo, Jose Antonio Vargas, has long been one of the most vocal advocates for immigration reform. As an undocumented immigrant himself, getting to see his mother again hinged on the Supreme Court decision.

Even though it’s a crushing blow to Vargas, it’s reinvigorated his fight for immigration reform. On Define American, he wrote, “Among the things America, its history and its people has really taught me: You don’t give up. You move forward. You fight on. By definition, immigrations are resilient, resourceful, courageous people. We will not give up. I will not give up.”


Arizona Activists

Numerous immigrant activists from Arizona voiced their exasperation in front of Phoenix’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office following the Supreme Court non-decision. According to NBC News Latino, demonstrators fiercely chanted “We will this fight at all costs” amid tears and visible frustration.

“Our families are not going to get relief,” Alejandra Gomez, one of the activist present, told NBC News Latino. “They have to wait with this uncertainty, with this fear of deportation looming over their heads, with the fear of being targeted by police. Family separation is real.”


Paola Mendoza

Paola Mendoza, director of the documentary Free Like The Birds starring beloved Sophie Cruz, penned a heartfelt letter regarding the decision on DAPA. “Today will be a bad day. Today, I will cry. Today, I will be angry. Today, I will protest. Today will be what it will be. But tomorrow, I will wake up my strength renewed. Tomorrow, I will wake up ready to fight again. Tomorrow, we will regroup, we will restrategize, we will rebuild, and we will continue onward because giving up is not an option because losing is not an option.” Paola wrote.


Democracy for America

Democracy for America joined the #Not1More campaign, which demands that Obama end all deportations to counteract this decision. “We stand with the #Not1More movement and all those calling on President Obama, both before and after today’s decision, to establish a moratorium on all deportations and stop playing a role in the unjust separation of families until Congress enacts the reforms necessary to create a humane immigration system,” said Democracy for America’s Executive Director Charles Chamberlain in a statement. Earlier this year, Reuters reported that ICE planned its largest immigration raid through a month-long series of raids in May and June to repatriate hundreds of Central American mothers and children who have been told to leave the United States.