Top Court Vote Leaves Millions of Undocumented in Limbo

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By David M. Sperling, Esq.

When President Obama announced his Executive Actions in November of 2014, it was a time of great excitement and hope for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the shadows.

But the Supreme Court’s decision on June 23 left them in limbo, without any short-term hope for legalizing their status.  Immigration reform will now depend, more than at any other time, on who is the next president.


Hillary Clinton did support Obama’s executive action on DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and expanded DACA for “Dreamers.”   But it is uncertain whether, as president,  she would attempt to pursue by fiat a program that faced intense judicial scrutiny.  Most likely, she would pursue immigration reform the old-fashioned way — through Congress.


That will take time and require grass-roots support. Notwithstanding Donald Trump’s irresponsible and incendiary rhetoric, there is broad bipartisan support for common-sense immigration reform that does not call for the deportation of 11 million people.


If Trump does in fact become president, he will in all likelihood dismantle the DACA program that still survives. Both Trump and Clinton believe the immigration system is broken, though they have diametrically opposed views on how to fix it. Ultimately, the solution is through congressional action.


In a sense, the defeat of DAPA is not the tragedy that many immigration advocates would have us believe.  DAPA and DACA are Executive Actions, which can be terminated at the whim of whoever occupies the White House.  Imagine the confusion if the Supreme Court had approved DAPA — how many undocumented immigrants would file for work authorization if they thought the next president would use that information to deport them?


The good news is that the original DACA remains in effect.  If anyone is newly eligible (for example by turning 15 years old and meeting other requirements) they should immediately consult with an experienced immigration lawyer or reputable legal-service organization.


The other good news is that there are many more possibilities for immigration relief than at any other time in the 21 years I have been practicing law.  Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to follow its guidelines on enforcement.  Anyone who entered the country before 2014 and does not have a serious criminal record is safe, at least until the guidelines change. That comprises the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States.


We are back to Square One, not good but far from terrible.


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